Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 


123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Overboard Blog

Living the extraordinary life of faith!

Filtering by Tag: Leadership

I Are A Good Student, Is You?

Joseph Castaneda



Growing up in the 80s and 90s, there were a few slogans that permeated my childhood education, maybe you remember some of these? "DARE to resist drugs" or "This is your brain..." or "Avoid the Noid" (ok, that one might be a stretch but here's a commercial to jog your memory!) or "True Love Waits" or...what are some of your favorite schoolisms?

Another one that became part of my educational DNA I learned in high school: "Leaders are learners." Good leaders are people who keep growing in knowledge, they read, they watch documentaries, they take notes during Ted Talks and they surround themselves with people who are wiser and smarter than themselves. These types of leaders ask questions, learn from their mistakes and know to whom they should listen.

I love Isaiah's words here in chapter 48, as the Lord reminds him that God is the greatest teacher. There is no doubt Isaiah was a tremendous leader in his time, and he was a man, a prophet, who was a great learner; learning from the Great Teacher.

Are you spending time learning with Isaiah's teacher? He knows what you need, He knows what you need to learn and "the way you should go," and He knows that when you learn it, the benefit will be yours.

I want to lead to the best of my ability, and I know that means I need to learn much from the Great Teacher. How about you? Are you spending time with Him? Are you learning, each day, from His book and His Spirit?

There is great comfort in knowing that the Lord is God, He teaches us and does so for our benefit, to lead us in the way we should go. Learn from Jesus.

Mistakes leaders make (9/10)


Leaders who have the greatest success, have a great succession plan to ensure that their work continues long-past their tenure. So while a strong leader is fully engaged in the present direction of his organization, he is also keeping an eye on who it is that might replace him one day.

Read More

Mistakes leaders make (8/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1Mistake #2Mistake #3Mistake #4Mistake #5Mistake #6, Mistake #7).


Mistake #8: Missing the clues of corporate culture

Hans defines corporate culture as “the way insiders behave based on the values and group traditions they hold.” In other words, the changes (some subtle, some not-so-much) you and your spouse, or you and your roommate, made in order to live in the same house without wanting to beat each other learning to live within a corporate culture.

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

As you look around at your life, you are probably part of several cultures, many without you even being aware! Sports team parent? Definitely a soccer mom culture! Married? Definitely bringing two family cultures together into one (and creating a third culture in your own family!). Are you employed? Then you know there is a culture at your office! Do you attend church? Then you definitely know about organizational culture! Every town, every state, every region has a culture and we learn to live and work and build relationships based on what those cultures value.

Finzel points out that culture is at the heart of success for a business (and I would say for a relationship, family or ministry!) and that top performing companies have “strong cultures [that] support the mission, goals, and strategy of the organization.” For believers, our culture should promote excellence in every aspect of our lives, living out 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17. Those verses remind us to do everything to the glory of God, even mundane every-day-tasks like eating, drinking and speaking should be done with our very best effort!

When it comes to leading people, a good leader seeks to learn the culture of his environment, and then operates and strengthens the organization from within that culture. When cultural shifts need to be made, a good leader has done her homework to understand the existing culture, and makes careful, calculated moves before instituting changes.

The culture of your family or ministry or business, can be discovered by exploring the non-negotiable beliefs that drive it. Everyone has preferences that come and go, sometimes connected to a particular person, sometimes a particular trend or the latest book, but those preferences won’t help your organization sink or swim. The values under those preferences, the do-or-die beliefs that drive the organization, those are the items that define your culture.

Some churches value, not changing. Whether it’s expressed or not, the leaders of this particular type of church are always suspicious of change, and typically like the “old way” of doing things. Some businesses value quality over quantity, and others mass-produce parts and value production numbers over anything else. Some families value a tight-knit unit with very little outside influence, others open the house doors wide for anyone or anything to enter! Some dads value their work over their families. Some moms put their children first, even above their spouse. All of these beliefs represent the underlying culture of a particular group of people.

A good leader seeks to understand that decisions her organization is making, come from these underlying core beliefs. Finzel (quoting Joules and Posner) writes, “Leaders who understand their own value, and can articulate them well to their organization, have proven to show superior performance in their roles.” Here are six benefits to leaders who learn to embrace an organization’s culture:

  1. Strong feelings of personal effectiveness
  2. Promotes high levels of company loyalty
  3. Facilitates consensus about key organizational goals
  4. Encourages ethical behavior
  5. Reduces levels of job stress
  6. Promotes strong norms about caring and working hard

(From the book: The Leadership Challenge)

When leaders don’t learn their organization’s culture, they create conformers (just do what you must to survive), complainers (completes work without enjoying it, and impacts other employees with negativity), Innovators (let’s change things!), ritualists (going through the motions), retreatists (running away from every situation) and rebels (angry non-conformists).

Good leaders spend time learning the culture, embracing the culture that promotes the vision and goals of the organization and carefully changing the parts of culture that need adjustment. If you’re leading an organization and running into constant conflict, check out chapter eight of Hans’ book for some great tips about understanding the culture.

Go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make (9/10)

Mistakes leaders make (6/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2, Mistake #3, Mistake #4, Mistake #5)


Mistake #6: Dirty Delegation

I’m convinced that there are few more defeating mistakes made by leaders, than the mistake of dirty delegation. A top-down leader can dominate followers into frustration. A paperwork leader elevates task over people. A non-affirming leader has followers that aren’t sure if they are valued. A leader who rejects Mavericks has a team that is constantly stuck. A dictator robs his team or family of their creative freedom. And a dirty delegator creates a defeated, broken-spirited, culture.

What is dirty delegation? It’s the not-so-fine art of giving projects to personnel, only to add someone to the team, or invite someone else to do the same project, without communicating your intent. It’s asking a team member to work on a project, then outsourcing it to someone else or bringing in outside eyes to evaluate without communicating your actions. Top-down leaders and dictators can easily fall into the trap of dirty delegation...along with anyone else who has ever led a team.

Why? Because delegation is hard for many leaders! Maybe you relate to one of these fears about delegation?

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

  1. Fear of losing authority
  2. Concern for the quality of work (no one can do it as well as you, right?)
  3. Fear of work being done better (uh-oh...someone else might do your job better than you!)
  4. Unwillingness to take the time
  5. Too disorganize to even give necessary details about the area needing delegation
  6. Lack of leadership training or other positive delegation experiences
  7. Fear of losing value within the organization

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Dirty delegators usually push the good men and women away from their group because they lack the self-restraint to allow them to produce. Good leaders recognize the delegation allows for personal ownership and investment, and this is crucial for: happiness in the home or workplace; inspiration for creative new ideas; freedom for personal expression and the opportunity to learn from mistakes.

Kaleo Korner (By Justin VanRheene, founder of Kaleo Media)

I’ve had jobs and have watched friends be employed in places that have managers that succumb to the fears above. Its very frustrating. Here are a few ways I’ve seen help bringing clarity, and empowering productivity.

Start with why. One principle I start with on all new clients is, start with why? Having a clear understanding of the big idea will help bring freedom to employees as you begin going after the four parts of delegation that Finzel states: assignment, authority, accountability, and affirmation.

“Because I said so?” As a parent, coach, teacher, etc. I’m sure you’ve said, or wanted to say, when questioned about a project, assignment, or task, “Because I said so!” Being in a position of authority, that seems like a great thing to say because you’re the boss. There is an older volunteer I work with at my church, who said one time, “Has that ever worked?” I’m not sure it has but I’m in my 30s and I heard it when I was a kid.

But so many of the things we’ll be involved in as a leader demand more than a “because I said so.” They require vision. And believe it or not, those who struggle with dirty delegation, don’t have a vision for their organization. In many situations, their identity is their organization and to leave their reputation in the hands of someone else is just not possible.

If anyone had the right to over-manage, it was Jesus. If anyone was confident he could do a job better, it was Jesus! And yet, as His ministry progressed, He began to release more and more opportunities for His disciples! On one occasion in the Gospel, he sent out 72 disciples to spread the Good News all over Israel, and He gave them power and authority to do miracles, to heal sick people, to cast out demonic spirits and to put a blessing (or curse!) on the towns they entered (Luke 10:1-24). Jesus delegate real opportunity, real authority and gave his followers a chance to experience the joy of ministry (10:17, 10:21).

Han says there are four parts to real delegation: Assignment, authority, accountability and affirmation. These four parts answer the main questions most followers have. What am I supposed to do? An assignment answers the question that is tops on most children, team mates, employees, managers or coaches, the question about activity. What is my job?

Once they know the “what”, they want to know if they will have the freedom and authority to execute that task: Will you let me do it? If you assign the brand redesign to an employee, but don’t provide the time or financial resources to accomplish the task, they will fail. Do they have the authority to do the task? The next question is, Will you help me when I need it? It’s the question of accountability and follow up: will you help them through the process and check on their progress along the way?

Finally, the fourth question employees ask is, Will you let me know how I’m doing? Every follower wants to know that their work is valuable, helpful and contributing to the overall goal! Does the word affirmation mean anything to you (Mistake #3)??

Of course, every follower has a different capacity for delegation. Not all followers can handle, or even desire, stand alone work. Some players are just more efficient, effective and happy when working under closer supervision. Others want a long leash and only occasional check-ins. Learning how each of your team members works is crucial, and honestly, it’s why many leaders don’t delegate. The work of learning who your team members operate, is sometimes harder than the work of releasing the labor!

I love the list Finzel ends the chapter with, giving 9 guidelines for clean delegation:

  1. Choose qualified people
  2. Exhibit confidence in your team
  3. Clarify duties
  4. Delegate proper authority for the work
  5. Avoid telling them how to do the work you’ve just given them
  6. Set up accountability points throughout the project
  7. Supervise according to their work style
  8. Give room for mistakes
  9. Give praise and credit for work well done

Delegation can be challenging, but if you want to multiply your effectiveness and influence, it’s a skill worth mastering.

So go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!

Joe Castaneda

Mistakes leaders make, 7/10

Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!

Mistakes leaders make (5/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role.

  1. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2, Mistake #3, Mistake #4)


Mistake #5: Dictatorship in Decision Making

National dictatorships are great if you want a quiet, generally pretty calm and usually a very predictable life. Dictators bring a form of peace that many leaders crave. But it’s a “peace” that comes by crushing the creative spirit and by devaluing the individual. Dictatorships work because people are marginalized into a “collective.”

And dictatorships fall because individuals rise up. People tired of oppression, tired of a joyless existence and tired of having life sucked out of their daily effort to survive wake up, rise up and seek their freedom.

In the same way, a leader -- in the office or home or ministry or team -- who leads like a dictator, sucks the life out of an organization and reduces people to being task-monsters. As Finzel states well, dictators believe that they have “special knowledge or an anointing that gives him or her the inside edge on truth...” They alone determine direction and they alone have the answer for every dilemma the organization faces.

As mentioned in Mistake #1, top-down leadership, the greatest good a leader does is empowering her team for success. Dictators short-circuit the success of the team by implementing their own ideas, randomly changing direction, or by sabotaging or down-playing the victories of others.

In contrast to the dictator, stands the servant leader. This leader is willing to facilitate the growth and achievement of his team, instead of crushing it by trying to control every aspect of the ministry, business or family. While Ephesians 4:12 is a specific call to pastors, I think all leaders would benefit from Paul’s words about growing others to be established in the work you are leading:  [God appointed leaders in the church] “to equip His people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up...” God didn’t appoint dictators to tell everyone how to do their jobs correctly. No! He appointed leaders to inspire others to serve, to expose the giftedness of others and to create an environment where everyone reaches the main objective under the direction of a serving, facilitating leader.

Here are 7 signs that you are leading like a dictator (or working for one!):

Stalin ruled Russia for 31 years, exiling and executing millions who were deemed "threats" to his leadership. Picture from daily telegraph:

  1. Information silo: You control the flow of information, including schedules, menus, long-term plans etc... It’s all in your head, or maybe even written out in a document, but it only changes when you change it.
  2. Idea threats: You feel threatened by the ideas of others, especially Mavericks (see Mistake #4). When you hear a new idea that isn’t yours, your first reaction is usually “No.”
  3. Flow chart: Your leadership flow chart is top-down. It doesn’t matter how wide it stretches, or how many arms come off your position, your position is always seen as “on top.”
  4. Unknown culture: You are distant from those you lead. You don’t really know what’s happening in their lives, and honestly, you may not even care. You keep an arms-length approach to work or family relationships.
  5. Defensive posture: You are defensive any time someone challenges or confronts you. You avoid honest sit down conversations with your team of followers, and you excuse away or blame others when your leadership is questioned.
  6. Control decisions: You make all of the decisions, or limit them to an elite team of board members or friends.
  7. Sudden changes: You make sudden changes in direction, in spending, in personnel and in general day-to-day work. Because you control the info, see ideas as threats and control decisions, sudden shifts in any aspect of the team, ministry or family is your prerogative.

Kaleo Korner 

(From my friend, Justin Vanrheenen, founder of Kaleo Media)

Let’s get real for a sec. Can a dictator change? Here’s my answer. NO. A dictator can not change, will not change, and if you work for a dictator, you have one option; resign and find a new job.

We all like to think that we can be the change, but sometimes you can’t. Hear me on this: because you can’t change the situation, it doesn’t make you a failure. Look at countries that have dictators, they have three options; military coup, get out or die. Assuming a military coup isn't a wise idea for your situation, there isn’t a middle ground.

Sometimes getting out will feel like death. You may take a hit to your reputation by the dictator. You may be ridiculed, and scorned in the process, by the dictator. But get out before you face emotional, relational, or physical death. There is no loyalty to any dictator worth your life!

By contrast, here are 7 signs that you are leading differently:

  1. Delegation: You delegate meaningful decisions to others, even decisions that rest in your areas of “control.” You willingly share your authority.
  2. Involvement: You want to include as many team members as productively possible in the process of achieving success.
  3. Information aqueduct  You want ideas and info to flow freely, to and from every member of the team.
  4. Development: Personal and team development is a crucial part of what you do.
  5. People: You see people as the organization’s greatest resource; not money, not buildings and not programs.
  6. Freedom: You give people real freedom to express their creativity and to make significant decisions.
  7. Accountability:  You maintain healthy accountability with your team, and support decisions you’ve released others to make.

Hans concludes this section by identifying two main characteristics of leaders who avoid decision-making dictatorships. One, they preserve the dignity of each individual and, two, they promote freedom and corporate creativity.

By contrast, dictators are hard to work for and impossible to please. Justin and I were emailing about this post, and we concluded that dictators remind us of the pharisees in Jesus' day. In fact, Jesus rebukes them because they ruled the people so harshly. Listen to how He describes them:

"They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them" (Matthew 23:4).

"They love the place of honor..." (23:6).

"You [the pharisees] have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness..." (23:23).

"...inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence..." (23:25).

"...on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (23:28).

To Justin's point above -- that dictators can't change -- think of the fact that even Jesus came to pharisees, confronted them and challenged them and what was their response? "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

It's true that a handful of pharisees were changed by Jesus, but the vast majority of them remained stuck in their stubborn, hard-hearted ways.

How are you leading your followers (Family, business, church, ministry, organization, team...)?

Go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make, 6/10

Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!

Stop hoarding gifts.


Have you ever watched an episode of Hoarders? There is something disturbing about entering someones home that is covered, floor to ceiling, with “stuff” that they just can’t release. I seriously can’t stomach more than one episode of that show at a time, it just makes me ill. Physical hoarding is classified as a mental disorder. Talent-hoarding should be classified as a spiritual disorder. (I found this pic on the blog of a compassionate woman, dealing with a neighbor who had a hoarding disorder)

One episode Traci and I watched showed a woman whose house was completely filled with boxes upon boxes, each overflowing with trinkets and garbage and books and food and... As the hoarding psychologist walked through the house with her (literally walking on paths barely wide enough for one person) he asked her, “So why are you keeping so much of this stuff?” He was trying to start the unpacking process (pun intended) with her. She replied, “I think a lot of this stuff will make some great gifts for others.”

The psychologist wasn’t buying her line, and pointed out that she was hoarding gifts, not giving them away. Clearly she was a collector of sorts, not a giver. Seeing someone’s house full of stuff, it’s easy to see their hoarding behavior, but I wonder how many of us hoard gifts of a different sort?

Toward the end of the book of Exodus, God is giving Moses the blueprints for building the Tabernacle, and all of the items that would be a part of Israel’s worship of Him. The details God gave were so specific, and required serious skill to execute. God gave plans for curtains, for giant copper washing basins, large gold rings, intricately carved flowers and birds, and expertly woven tapestries.

I’m guessing, that at some point, Moses had to think, “How on earth am I going to do all of this work??” Maybe he was an accomplished Gold or Copper smith, but he certainly wouldn’t have had the skill, or time, to accomplish everything God was requesting.

That’s ok, God had plans. In Exodus 35 we see that God had already orchestrated skilled laborers to be a part of Moses’ team. Two men in particular, were especially talented artists, and were gifted as teachers, able to show others how to be skilled in their craft, too. Men, women and children were put to work preparing the articles of the Tabernacle and worship, and God had already put the perfect team together (Exodus 35:30-35).

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some pretty amazing people; great managers, pastors, leaders, musicians, performers and every day moms and dads. Men (and women!) who were incredibly talented in some areas and once or twice, I’ve met a person who seemed talented in almost every area of life! They could sing, preach, build, paint and more. You know the type of person I’m talking about?

I’ve also met the some people that were really hard to work along side. People who led small organizations or churches that could never quite get over the hump, as well as people who led large organizations that could never seem to get their team all pointing the same direction. Some of these people seem to be so talented (or cocky?) they push other talented people away from them. Big lofty goals in their families or teams, in their businesses or ministries, continue to go unmet year after year, because they are hoarders...talent hoarders.

I think it’s so interesting in Exodus that God gave Moses this massive vision for a building a place where God would be worshipped while Israel wandered around the wilderness, then surrounded him with the team necessary to see the dream completed. Moses wasn’t greedy to be the guy who had all the skills or know-how, he apparently, was eager to release it to others. He was happy to bring a team alongside him.

Earlier in Exodus, Moses father-in-law, Jethro, stopped by to check in with Moses and to bring his wife and kids back to him (Moses had apparently sent his wife back to her home when things in Egypt got kind of crazy). When Jethro saw Moses acting as judge for all the problems the people had, he flipped his lid and told Moses to let others help carry the load, saving the largest issues for Moses to settle. Moses was more-than-happy to follow his father-in-laws advice, and let other talented people step in and use their gifts (Exodus 18:13-27).

The same was most certainly true in Exodus 35, because by the middle of Exodus 39, Moses’ final inspection took place and by Exodus 40 the new mobile place of worship was being set up! God gifted others to help Moses see the Tabernacle dream completed, and by releasing other gifted people to serve (instead of hoarding the work and talent himself!) Moses was able to reach the goal.

How about you? Are you a gift hoarder? Are you trying so hard to accomplish God-given dreams by yourself, that you keep spinning your wheels and getting stuck? Do people keep leaving your team because you aren’t releasing or inspiring them to use their gifts? Are you worried about who is going to get the credit? Have you ever feared that a project would be completed differently than you imagined if others came along and helped?

Almost everywhere you see true Kingdom work being done for the Lord, you’ll find a team of people using their gifts to see that work accomplished. Gift hoarders can only go as far as their own talent and management can take them, but those who will allow others to use their talents, gifts and perspectives will find greater joy in the journey, and help for the tough seasons. In fact, most often when I find myself stuck, I find God has already prepared someone else to come along side, to use their gifts, to help me move forward again.

Hoarding gifts can feel safe, and can give us a false sense of control. Where as releasing people to use their God-given talents can feel frightening, and even like we’ve lost control. But learning to work with others, and learning to appreciate how God gifts those around us can make the difference between finishing our dreams and goals, and stressing over another year passing without them being completed.

Is it time for you to stop hoarding gifts?

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Be good. Do good.


I’m reading a couple of books about productivity, leadership and the fine art of organizing your life so that you spend more time on life’s priorities, and less time trying to find your car keys (or something like that). These books have been very challenging and encouraging. Photo by Ed Yourdon. Ed tells an interesting story about this photo, and you can read the story and see the photo from Ed's page here:

While reading one of them, I was struck by the idea that so much of the Overboard Life revolves around one command: do good. Truthfully, at the end of each day, you can almost measure the “success” of a day by asking yourself, “Did I do good, today?” Before you grammar nazis go all crazy on me, I’m not asking if you did well (as in, “did you do your work well, today”), I’m asking, “Did you do good” (as in, “Did you do something good for your neighbor?”).

This got me thinking about all the passages in the Bible that talk about doing good for others. Here are just a few:

Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.”

Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Galatians 6:9-10: “Let us not become weary in doing good...therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Look how The Message paraphrases this verse: “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:15: “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”

Titus 2:14: “[Jesus] gave Himself for us to redeems us from all wickedness and purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.

Are you looking for opportunities to do good, today?

Of course, the only way that we can truly find the good that God wants us to do, is to make sure that the good we seek is done for His honor and His glory. I think it’s possible to do good in order to lift up our name and bring praise to ourselves. Clearly our activities to do good for others should flow from the command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and the motive must come from the command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength.”

Will you do some good today? How about tomorrow, when you wake up, you pray this to God: “Father, help me to see opportunities to do good for others today, in order that they might see my work and praise your name because of it.” I’m guessing God will help you see that there are plenty of chances for you to promote His name through good deeds done for others.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Joe Castaneda

Mistakes leaders make (4/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2, Mistake #3)


Mistake #4: No Room for Mavericks

Mavericks are the small segment of the population that are born with a different perspective. They don’t live inside any box, and they don’t naturally conform to the cultures in which they live and work. These people often feel like they don’t “fit in” because, truth is, they don’t!

If you have more than one child, you may know exactly what I’m speaking about! You probably have a child who just sees the world differently and no matter how hard you try to explain life to them, they just don’t seem to “get it.” The problem is, most of us, inadvertently, try to squash the mavericks from family influence -- or office expression -- as we stifle their creativity in an attempt keep things “normal.”

Generally, it’s not that mavericks try to make things hard, and generally, I don’t think most people intentionally try to block the influence a maverick can have. Rather, our homes and businesses and ministries and schools and organizations become so set in their ways, that without knowing it, they push away the very help they need. I find it ironic when an organization is formed out of a cry for change (like many church plants) but then themselves become a stagnant body that rejects change in the future!

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

Hanz writes, “Organizations (businesses, families, schools, ministries) have nasty habit of becoming institutionalized.” He continues, “Movements become monuments. Inspiration becomes nostalgic.” In other words, every organization experiences life cycles, much like a human moves from birth to death: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, golden years, old age and death. In the human existence, there is no way to reverse the cycle, but in organizations, there is: introduce a Maverick into the group!

Instead, however, most organizations opt to stifle the mavericks and try to keep them away from influence. Finzel gives five signs that suggest an organization is afraid of mavericks and headed for demise:

  1. They create as many layers of management as possible for decision making.
  2. They keep looking over the shoulders of employees, micro-managing them.
  3. They make the policy manual as thick as possible.
  4. They send everything to committees for deliberation.
  5. They make new ideas and maverick leaders wait.

Kaleo Korner

(From my Friend, Justin VanRheenen, found of Kaleo Media)

My name is Justin. Am I’m a Maverick. **Hi, Justin**

I think of the greatest Maverick in the Bible, Peter. I love this guy. In John 21, after Jesus appeared to Peter and several of the disciples who were out fishing, He joins them on the shore to have breakfast. Now this is after Peter had tried to rebuke Jesus, cut off a dude’s ear, and denied Jesus three times, within a week. Think about that. If you’re a manager or pastor and someone screwed up this many times in a week, you’re ready to have a meeting aren’t you? So was Jesus.

So on the shore Jesus is having this meeting with Peter. And Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” There are three greek words for love. Eros (a steamy passionate love; erotic), Phileo (a sibling kind of love), Agape (a fall-on-a-grenade-for-you type of love; self-sacrificing). The word that Jesus uses for love here is the word agape. “Peter, do you agape me?” Peter responds, “Jesus, you know that I…” **now watch this** “…phileo you?” Did you see that? Jesus asks a very specific question and Peter can’t answer it. But Jesus says “Feed my lambs.” WHAT?!

Jesus asks Peter again if he loves Him. “Peter, do you agape me?” Peter again responds. “Yes, Lord; you know that I phileo you?” Does Jesus say, “DUDE!! DO YOU NOT HEAR THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?” Nope. He says, “Tend my sheep.”

It's the next statement that makes me wish I had Jesus as a boss (don’t get all spiritual on me; you know what I mean). A third time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, but watch this. “Peter, do you phileo me?” Did you see that? Jesus changed the word. He met Peter where he was. But I think He asked him, “Do you really phileo me? You said you do. But do you really?”

Peter is grieved that Jesus had to actually ask him this when he replied, “Jesus, you know everything; you know that I phileo you.” and Jesus says “Feed my sheep…Follow me.”

So why tell this story? Because Mavericks can identify themselves in this story. Mavericks know they don’t fit in. They know it. Just ask them. And they will make soooooo many mistakes. So many. But if you as a manger/pastor/parent punish a maverick because of their failures and never mentor or teach them through it, they will NEVER hear the words of Jesus when He comes down to their level and says, “Feed my sheep. Follow me.” They will instead feel shame, and they will fear even stepping outside of the box they are being stuffed in every day.

But let me tell you, if you can empower a Maverick within your organization, church, or family to do extraordinary things, they will turn a stagnate status quo into a thriving machine. And.And.And. hear me with this: their loyalty will go deeper than the biggest rockstar on your team. Don’t believe me? Engage that Maverick on your team.

Of course, there are mavericks who are self-centered, and more concerned about their status than the team’s -- you must be ware of them -- but there are plenty of game-changing influencers out there who just need a little opportunity to express themselves, in order to bring about significant change. Here are five ways Hanz suggests, to release the potential of a maverick:

  1. Give them a long tether -- they need space to soar!
  2. Put them in charge of something they can really own.
  3. Listen to their ideas, and give them time to grow.
  4. Let them work on their own (if they wish).
  5. Leave them alone, and give them time, [and limited direction], to blossom.

As a leader, if you are feeling stuck, if you are feeling like your organization is in a rut, it might be that the answer is sitting right in front of you; you just need to release a maverick in to the equation. It can be a risky move, but mavericks are often the last person that stands between long-term success of a ministry or business -- even a family! -- and the demise of a once-great organization.

We’ve all seen 60, 70 and 80-year-old businesses, churches or ministries that have long passed their prime. They’re still around, and they’re still active, but they are at the end of their life-cycle and effectiveness. A maverick leader could be the one person that restores life.

Go ahead and take the plunge, you leadership will be better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make, 5/10

Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!

Mistakes leaders make (3/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. Looking for missed posts, click here: Mistake #1, Mistake #2


Mistake #3: The Absence of Affirmation

It’s no secret in corporate America that affirmation is the number one motivational factor for employees -- Employee incentives

In fact, I’m convinced many managers are aware of this, to a degree, but as Hans states, “[they] wildly underestimate” the power of affirmation. It seems like there’s a big disconnect between knowing affirmation is valuable, and applying it in the workplace (or home). Here are my suggestions as to why it doesn’t happen more often:

  1. It requires time and thoughtfulness. Meaningful affirmation (a pre-printed, “Great Job!” certificate doesn’t cut it) requires time, and some reflection. If you want to thank an employee for some contribution, you have to know how they contributed, or in what way their contribution was effective. It’s hard to wing-it when it comes to meaningful praise.
  2. Affirmation requires a level of engagement with your family, classmates or co-workers. You can’t give powerful affirmation as a leader, if you’re disconnected from your team.
  3. One size doesn’t fit all -- a leader has to understand the different levels of affirmation his team needs. [see below]
  4. Unfortunately, some leaders just don’t care. They are so focused on upward mobility, so focused on goals and achievement, or just oblivious to others around them, and they don’t care about rewarding others with uplifting words.

Finzel points out four different types of people, and suggests some ideas for how to recognize them. I think this list is pretty helpful:

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

Desperados: These people cannot get enough praise! They usually lack confidence, are a bit fragile and lap up affirmation. If you have a desperado, remember that they need to know when they are doing well...frequently.

Up-and-downers: This group of people can carry on for days, even weeks, without much praise. But something will happen that will trigger a downturn in their countenance. Maybe a change at the office, a problem at home or in the marriage, or the loss of a friendship or pet. A good leader will recognize when an Up-and-downer needs a lift, and will use those opportunities to pour it on.

Normal (Stable): Hans uses the word normal, I would use the word stable, to describe people from a pretty steady background, and who don’t have real high-highs, or real low-lows. These people are easy to overlook because they require such low maintenance. But don’t confuse calm with happy, or non-cranky with content. Look for opportunities to help your stable people be reaffirmed in their stability.

Autopilots: These are you home or office energizer bunnies. They seem to operate at a high level for a long time, and often require little attention. In fact, many of them are suspicious of praise, assuming you have a second agenda. Learn to praise these people as you walk or work along side them. Praise them with coffee cards (Because you KNOW they drink unhealthy amounts of caffeine!) or humor -- anything that shows kindness.

Kaleo Korner (From Justin VanRheenen, founder of Kaleo Media)

Affirmation is probably the hardest characteristic to get right all the time. Because of that, you’re going to mess up…a lot! Failure is going to happen. Don’t let it scare you. How do I know? I’m awful at giving affirmation. Which is very ironic since my #1 strength in Strength Finders is Significance. I literally want to know that I have done a good job and my longing for that, drives me to excel. But because I’m awful at giving affirmation, doesn’t mean I don’t do it.

Here are 3 things I remind myself about affirmation:

  1. Making the company look good is a part of doing a good job. But to be honest, it shouldn’t be the point of the affirmation. So much work goes into making the company look good. How does my good work make you feel? What specifically about my good work makes you feel that way? (AAAAAHHHHHH FEEEEEELLLLINGS!!!!)

  2. Most times, being late with affirmation is still better than none at all.

  3. If you still can’t be sincere with affirmation, just keep your mouth shut until you can. If you can’t be sincere, you’ve got some soul searching to do because something is wrong with you.

That last one may seem harsh, but I can’t tell you how easy it is to loose credibility by being a person a who isn’t sincere. I’ve been that person. I’ve been managed by a person like that. I’ve watched people be managed by people like that. Trust me. Just don’t do it. Or do. And lose great employees or volunteers.

I think some leaders balk at the idea of having to know their staff well enough to know what each person needs. But this isn’t new advice! Look at what Paul wrote the leaders in a church. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul writes, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone...”

If you are in a leadership position (Dads/moms, coaches, bosses, employees, parents, children, students, pastors, CEOs etc...) you have a unique opportunity to bless those you lead with honest, careful and powerful words of praise. You have a chance to put into practice the last half of Ephesians 4:29, “...[your words should be] what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

How are you doing as a leader, providing affirmation to your team? Do your children need to hear more praise from you? Are your employees desperate for some affirmation from their boss? How could you encourage one person today?

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make, 4/10

Special thanks to Justin VanRheenen, friend and founder of Kaleo Media. If you want to increase your online presence, or improve your social media content and skills, contact Justin and learn from him!

Mistakes Leaders Make (2/10)


I’m working my way through a book, The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel, and I’m really enjoying the challenge. So for the next ten Saturdays I want to work through these ten mistakes, knowing that they apply to CEOs, ministry leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors and just about anyone in any kind of leadership role. I promise to keep my summaries short(ish), and I would love to interact with your thoughts as we go along. These mistakes are listed in order of how they occur in the book, not necessarily how I would arrange them. Overboard Leadership requires an honest self-evaluation of each of these shortcomings (sins?) of leaders. (Looking for missed posts, Mistakes Leaders Make (1/10))


Mistake #2: Putting Paperwork before peoplework

I love what Hanz states about this mistake: “The greater the leadership role, the more important ‘peoplework’ is. People are opportunities, not interruptions.”

As an owner of a publishing company I deal with lots of paperwork, physical and digital. As a parent I process thousands of emails, flyers, posters, parent-newsletters and school awards every year! It’s easy to become obsessed with organizing, filing, storing, accessing, and admiring paperwork. And paperwork is important, but...and that’s a BIG but...not early as important as the people connected to it.

Why do some leaders prefer to process paper/data/to-do lists and more? It’s pretty simple and you Type-A’s know this is true (Ha!):

  1. Observable results are more fun than trying to cultivate relationships
  2. Tasks easily allow you push aside small talk
  3. Because the material world dominates the immaterial world
  4. Often you feel judged by what you do, not by who you are
  5. Personality preferences
  6. Relationships don't easily fit your deadline, task-oriented mentality.

(You could reverse each of these and come up with reasons why relationship oriented people like me don’t accomplish our paperwork in a timely fashion!)

Generally, when paperwork trumps peoplework, it’s because people are viewed as interruptions and distractions, instead of opportunities. But people are the heart of almost every organization, family, school or business. Without people, your cause/ministry/team dies. An orchestra plays the music, but without the people, the paper with the notes is meaningless. Carlo Maria Giulini, former LA Philharmonic conductor is quoted as saying, “My intention always has been to arrive at human contact without enforcing authority...What matters most is human contact. The great mystery of music making requires real friendship among those who work together. Every member of the orchestra knows I am with him and her in my heart.”

Couldn’t we say that the real mystery of any industry/team/family requires friendship among those who work together? I’d love to believe that great things can be done for God by people who don’t get along, but the reality is that God’s work, in the long-haul, is short-circuited when God’s children don’t get along.

As most of you know, I'm a relationship guy, so while I make plenty of mistakes as a leader, this generally isn't one of them. My buddy and contributor to these posts, Justin VanRheenen, founder of Kaleo Media, offers these insights for task-oriented people like himself:

Kaleo Korner

3 Ways to be more people oriented

Use your planning skills as a strength. This begins with your email inbox. More time is wasted in a day because of email. Kaleo Media spends only two hours a day in email, AT MOST. That’s one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon (generally 10am and 3pm). Rule of thumb is to get the email out of your inbox. I believe that having 2000+ emails in your inbox will kill you faster than eating a pound of bacon everyday. To help you empty your inbox, choose an email client you like. This is incredibly hard. Every client has its own perks. Don’t use an email client that overwhelms or distracts you getting stuff done.
Kaleo Media uses Mail Pilot because it allows you to organize and get email out of the inbox fast. Inbox Zero is the most genius way to get your inbox to zero. It's not for everyone, but very effective. I've been using SaneBox, a paid service, for three years. It moves only the important emails to my inbox and creates a few other folders (SaneLater and SaneNews) for all the other stuff. It also helps you unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read. It even learns what emails are important.
Take ten minutes of every hour to get out from behind your desk and go have a conversation. Not only is this good for your health to get up and walk around but it helps refocus your mind, invest in those working with you, and gives you a break from staring at a computer screen or book or spreadsheet.
Relationships are ALWAYS greater than deadlines. We live in a society that places progress over relationships. But what I’ve tried to do for Kaleo and my clients is build relationship time into contracts, because I would rather go into your shop and spend quality time with you for a couple hours than bounce emails back and forth. This helps me get a bigger picture of what we are accomplishing and helps me be a raving fan of your product. A phone call or drop-in is ALWAYS better than a text message or email if you can help it.

Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

This isn’t to say paperwork is an important or unnecessary aspect of leadership, but rather to ask the question: What’s your primary focus as a leader? I love the story of Jesus and His disciples trying to move from one ministry location to another, when a woman, suffering from severe menstrual bleeding reaches out to touch Jesus robe, hoping to be healed. Jesus halted the procession and says, “Hey, somebody just touched me!” Peter’s response is awesome: “Of course someone just touched you! We’re in a crazy mob-like crowd and hands are everywhere! Let’s keep moving!”

But to Jesus, peoplework trumped paperwork. He stopped everything until he found the woman whose faith was so strong. I wonder how often we leaders ignore the touch of others, the requests of others and the need of others in order to finish our tasks? As Hans writes repeated, “Only through association is their transformation.” Let’s associate more with the people we lead.

How well are you balancing paperwork and peoplework in your family? In your work? On your team? In your school? We can’t just ignore our tasks or the paper trail we’re a part of, but has it subtly taken charge of your life? Are you finding your identity in what you do or who you are? Do you see people as interruptions or opportunities? Jesus stopped, met with people, talked to people, touched sick people, played with children and in general, believed that transformation and association went hand-in-hand. How about you?

I’m fully convinced, the greater the leadership task in front of you, the more critical it is for you to hone your peoplework skills!

Go ahead and take the plunge, your leadership will be better on the water!

Mistakes leaders make, 3/10

Dirty words.


no-profanityIt’s not a 4-letter word, but to many, “accountability” is still a dirty word. When I was younger, I think I worried that accountability showed some sort of weakness in my person or character. As I aged, I did! However, embracing accountability not only exposes my flaws, it also reveals a great strength: humble recognition that I can’t do this life on my own. If I am going to achieve my best, it will happen because of the help and influence of others.

Accountability is huge for my success, and I can confidently say it’s huge for yours, too. Here are a few ways accountability is working in my life:

  1. My computer is armed with software to help protect me and my family -- and keep me on track -- while surfing the web. That software reminds me that everything I’m doing on the web needs to be God-honoring.
  2. I wear an "Up" health band. Up records my exercise and sleep each day, then posts it online for my wife and friends to see. (If you’re using “Up” by Jawbone, add me to your team. (@joeacast)
  3. Now that I’m working more from home, my wife is able to see my work each day. She can see when I’m loafing or when I’m working too much. Just last week she helped me see that I was totally blowing off the kids to finish a couple of encouragement notes to others. How ironic, I’m trying to encourage other people, and neglecting my own children to do it. Hmmmm.
  4. This blog has some built-in accountability. When I’ve missed a posting day or two (I usually post on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays) it’s not uncommon to get a call, text or email form someone wondering if everything is ok. I cringe when I get one of those notes and I don’t have anything going, but the accountability is good and helps me work hard to stay ahead of the game.
  5. When I travel, or when my wife travels and leaves me home, I have a couple buddies who call and make sure I’m doing ok. These guys want to see me be successful, and they are eager to help me make sure I’m making the most of my time.
  6. I have another couple friends that ask me about my marriage quite frequently. They ask if I’m honoring my commitment to date Traci regularly. Especially during this particularly stressful season of life, they’ve been asking about our marriage and whether or not I’m doing my job to provide for, and take care of, Traci.
  7. When I’m working on a book, I set up a small team of people to help me meet my writing goals. They know my schedule and my deadlines, and they pray for me along the way, and ask keep me track.

The reality is that all of us need help in this life, and God has hard-wired us for relationships in order to find that help. From day one, He gave Eve to Adam (and Adam to Eve!) and all throughout Scripture you find the value and power of teamwork, friendship and accountability. So what happens when we don’t have that accountability?

  1. We treat people as property, and leave a wake of damaged relationships in our past. People without accountability often have few real friends and use their work as a shield to hide their insecurities or arrogance (or both). It’s hard to maintain good relationships when you live life without the input of others.
  2. We fall behind in our work, as no one is around to ask about details, confirm deadlines or even know what we’re working toward. A stay-at-home mom, a CEO, a college student or a Southern California pool boy can become lazy and ineffective, addicted to Netflix or video games, a busybody or micromanager when they live without meaningful input from others.
  3. We blame others for our failures, because no one in our lives is giving us the perspective we need. I’ve known too many leaders who operate without solid accountability, and they are professional blamers when it comes to organizational short-comings because it’s easier to blame a subordinate then it is to see yourself as the problem (or at least part of the problem). My lead pastor in Salem, Oregon, set a stellar example of submitting himself to accountability. More than once I saw him listen as a member of the Elder board, or a member of the congregation, confronted or challenged him on something related to his leadership. He was always willing (and eager!) to learn from those moments, and able to admit his own flaws when necessary. Accountability allowed him to see mistakes or shortcoming he maybe couldn’t see himself. That’s a good thing!
  4. We put up a front that hides major problems behind. As a pastor in the Pacific NW for almost 17 years, and now having served in Michigan for over two, I’ve seen too many ministries fall apart because a pastor held up a great facade while his marriage or personal purity or financial integrity was in shambles. When no one is asking us the hard questions, it’s too easy for us to hide the trash.
  5. We never realize our true God-given potential, because that potential is connected to the relationships God has given us. Leaders fail to get their organizations to their goals, marriages never reach the intimacy either spouse desires, families live in constant tension and people settle for ordinary lives because they neglect accountability.

Do any of those items resonate with you? If so, you might be lacking accountability in some area(s) of your life. Trust me, you can’t live the Overboard Life without the help of others, so the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can begin moving toward the goals, and ultimately toward the life, God has given you.

When I look at this list I know I’ve been guilty of each of these byproducts of living life without accountability. I’m thankful for the men and women who’ve stepped up to help me, for the ones who said yes when I asked, and for the ones who simply invited themselves into my life. In each case, the accountability has helped me live my God-designed life out of the comfort of the boat.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.

5 Key Phrases for Remarkable Living (1 of 5)


Mediocrity is unacceptable” I’m reading, Platform, by Michael Hyatt, and came across this great quote:

“The truth is, mediocrity is natural. You don’t have to do anything to drift there. It just happens.”

That statement is true whether you’re talking about writing books, building houses, teaching children, preaching on Sundays, cleaning bathrooms or changing diapers. Mediocrity is easy and requires zero effort on our part.

Living the Overboard life means you and I must believe (and therefore act) that mediocre living is unacceptable.

That’s really the heart of the my latest book, Project Nehemiah: Making your life truly remarkable. Overboard living doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t happen because you’ve read a lot of books on how to make your life meaningful. Overboard living -- living the life of faith out on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom, instead of in the comfort of the boat -- demands intentional excellence.

But I’m convinced that intentional excellence begins when we determine that mediocrity is unacceptable. We may not always know each step of the journey when we start out, and we may not always grasp the magnitude of the climb we embark on, but each of us knows, feels, the failure of mediocrity when we encounter it.

When I was in college, I worked on a project with two friends that involved the explanation and demonstration of how a fire extinguisher works. We did a lot of research, interviewed some experts and then developed a plan for our presentation. It was my job to actually pick up a working fire extinguisher and I had decided it would be cool to light something on fire, and then put it out using the device after our thorough presentation.

I checked out some options for my big fire, and realized there were some obstacles to making this happen. I didn’t even try to find a solution and in the end, after the wonderful presentation by my two classmates, I held up a fire extinguisher, demonstrated it’s fine features, and set it back down unused. Despite the humor I used to offset my mediocrity, I knew I didn’t earn my part of the “A” the professor gave our team.

To this day, I wish I had worked out a way to do a live demonstration of that fire extinguisher. Doing my mediocre part, however, was easy. I settled because I wasn’t committed to something better. I hadn’t determined that mediocrity was unacceptable, and so drifting there was simple.

Overboard living begins when, in faith, we step out in action and choose to reject mediocrity. No matter what other options you and I face, we must start be declaring that mediocrity is unacceptable. Once the mediocre choices are taken off the board, whatever else is left, regardless of the obstacles that may come with those choices, are the options we must pursue.

Think about your journey right now. Are you in the midst of some tough choices? Start here: take the mediocre decisions off the table. As you look at your options, determine that mediocrity is unacceptable, and as you do, the choices that demand intentional excellence will come into clarity. You may not know what the next move is, but you will know what it isn’t.

This five part series will give you five phrases that are key concepts in remarkable living. Are you ready to live Overboard? If so, mediocrity is unacceptable.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!

Lessons on Leadership


At the beginning of August, my wife and I had the chance to share in a unique camping ministry at Lake Ann Bible Camp outside of Travers City, Michigan. Knowing this was coming up, we took the family on a cross-country roadie, taking in the sights of the upper midwest, and allowing us some time to visit old friends. It was an amazing, memory-making experience. The highlight for almost all of us was the time we got to spend at Lake Ann. The three older kids (Tati, AJ and BJ) were privileged to spend the week as campers, while Celina received some much-desired alone time with Traci and me at the speaker’s cabin. The students I spoke to were really receptive, and the whole week was great.

But one of our camping highlights came from a surprising source. Lake Ann does this cool visual lesson using the skills of a “horse whisper”. This man and his wife bring in four very different horses and illustrate the power of leadership and followership, by showing how each horse learns to trust and follow the wrangler. It’s a captivating exercise to watch.

While I was a little skeptical at first, I was soon roped-in (I couldn’t resist that pun...sorry) to the process. First, the wrangler would use a series of sounds made by the smacking of his whip on barrels or fence posts, in order to move the horses to one corner of the corral. Once the horses were herded into one of the four corners, he worked to separate out one from the rest of the herd. Each horse’s “horsenality”* leadership and followership* styles soon emerged.

I could easily blog about each of the four horses, and maybe someday I will. For today, however, I want to focus on a horse named “Paco”. Paco was the leader of this little herd, and it was fascinating to watch him try and control the other horses, even encouraging them to defy the orders of the wrangler. He had a special affinity for one particular horse in the group, and he repeatedly moved between that horse and the wrangler making it challenging for Mark to do his work.

In fact, it was interesting how the other three horses always looked back toward Paco and the herd each time Marc gave them instructions. Instead of following the skilled wrangler fully, they constantly turned their heads toward Paco, almost like they were seeking his approval more than Marc’s. In fact, they were almost ashamed to be following him instead of the leader of their herd, and each of the first three horses, when they finally “consented” to trust and follow Marc, approached him with head down with a look of fear and concern.

Seriously, you could see the distinct look of fear, concern and humility as they approached Mack when he finally garnered their trust.

That all changed with Paco.

Paco was the last of the four horses. Since the other had already been separated from the herd, it wasn’t hard for Marc to get Paco to come to him. But unlike the other three, Paco didn’t come with his head down, or his tail hanging limp. He stood tall. He came eyeball to eyeball with Marc and seemed almost eager to follow. I couldn’t believe it. For the previous 30+ minutes he had done everything he could to keep Marc from influencing the other horses and now he was showing total obedience. Almost like he was proud to obey! In fact, every few minutes he would glance over to the holding tank where the other three horses were being kept, making sure they were watching him.

Marc was mic’d up for the whole experience and he began to explain why Paco was so eager to obey. It wasn’t because he was the last horse. It wasn’t because he was trained to behave like this. It wasn’t even because he was hoping to get something good to eat afterward (the horses were in fact, not rewarded for their work). Instead, Paco was following in the manner in which he expected the other horses to follow him. He was a leader, teaching followers how to follow. His leadership and followership were linked.

Without question, Paco was the leader of the herd. And equally without question, Paco knew how to follow. And part of his duty as a leader involved the capacity to follow and to teach his herd to do the same. While at first he sought only to protect them, and to preserve his own leadership status, when it became clear that following was inevitable, he did so in a way that modeled followership to others. He modeled the very behavior he expected others to demonstrate when he led.

There’s an important lesson there. The best leaders aren’t the biggest bosses or Type-A driven doers. It’s nice to have a good strong boss, or to have a leader that knows where she is going and how she wants to get there. But that’s not what makes a leader great. After watching Paco in action, I realize that great leaders know how to follow, and know how to teach their constituency to do the same. They don’t have to be pushy or bossy – they live out what they expect from others. Like Paco, they know how to lead, because they know how to follow. They understand what it means to trust others, to follow instructions, and ultimately they draw their leadership from their experiences.

As we walked away from that unique experience, my wife and I were talking about how obvious it suddenly seemed. After all, isn’t that precisely how Jesus led? In Philippians 2 the Bible says He took the path of obedience from the Father, choosing to live and die as He experienced humanity in all of its imperfections (while He Himself remained perfect!). But by choosing obedience, He modeled for us the very life He expects from us – humble obedience to Him, our Lord and Savior. His example as the supreme leader, teaches us how to follow, and equally, how to better lead.

Amazingly, the Bible says Jesus was perfected through His suffering (volumes of books have been written on that topic, and I’m not about to touch it here!), making Him the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. And how did the world’s greatest leader become the atoning sacrifice for the entire world? Through His unrestrained followership.

I think we should spend less time looking for leaders and trying to analyze people’s abilities to lead when we hunt for directors, pastors and vision-casting CEOs. I think we should start spending more time on learning how well people follow. We should start designing tests to analyze a person’s follower-IQ, knowing that the better a person can follow, the better understanding they’ll have of leading.

Of course, not everyone is cut-out for significant leadership roles, but everyone is cut-out for following in one role or another. How are your followership skills developing? Jesus is out on the water, calling you to grab the sides of the boat and jump -- asking you to trust His lead even in the storm. Others are watching you and will follow, but you've got to follow Jesus first before you can lead others to do the same.

Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water!

* Horsenality: Just as humans possess personality, horses posses horsenality. The nature of a horse is it's horsenality.

* Followership: I'm annoyed that this word gets underlined by my auto-spellcheck. It really should be a word, thus, we have deemed it so. "Leadership" is comprised of two words. "Lead" and "ership". Throughout history, this phrase was heard more than once in the shipping industry: "There goes the Lead 'ership out the harbor" in reference to the first ship into the bay** Similarly, the word "Followership" is made up of two words, "Follow" and "ership". It too was used in the harbors-of-old when sailors would say, the "Lead 'ership has gone, let's follow 'ership to sea!"***

** There is actually no historical record that says anything of a sort. However, if that record should be discovered, I'd like it noted that this blog announced it first.

*** see previous note.