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The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown opens with a very common problem. Through a combination of factors like personality, expectation, fear, and ego, many leaders act in a climate of urgency as fixers and that fixing activity makes them appear and feel like hero’s, but it ends up creating mediocre teams and organizations. In a way, the self-evolved leader is the antidote to a self-involved leader. How do you know that you are a self-involved leader? McKeown states that this kind of leader will have many distinct signs such as swinging for fences (thinking one big win will be a cure-all), confusing business for progress, having all the answers, savior complex, learned helplessness, and dis-empowerment.
McKeown's contribution is to become a leader focused on:
Growth - A leader is committed to their personal development, and a pattern of practice, feedback, and reflection
Vulnerability - Leaders are open about their strengths and weaknesses openly
Empathy - Leader's recognize the emotional core of their team and the power states have on performance
Connectedness - Leaders recognize that their teams form interconnected systems that require support at multiple levels to operate toward the same goal but with different purposes
Operate from their locus of control - Leaders recognize high priority and leverage activities for themselves and those on their team
The second half of the book is dedicated to brief discussions on the mastery and maintenance of a self-evolved leader. McKeown contributes insights that respect the systems that exist in organizations. He does not use terms like macro, mezzo, and micro like a social scientist, but his recommendations address these levels and the need for leaders to assess how these systems interact and affect each other. Another primary contribution by McKeown is his reinforcement of the emotional forces in people and their systems. He recognizes that fear, tension, and anxiety are primary forces for dis-empowerment. The leader has a great influence on what an organization does with its emotional load of anxiety and tension.
The book is a helpful guide for a leader who is struggling with complex teams and personalities. I recommend it for those who have relied on expert power to attain their leadership roles but continue to struggle with the interpersonal dynamics of performance. The self-evolved leader will be familiar to fans of emotional intelligence and human resiliency work. McKeown's incorporation of these concepts into a work for the wider business world is very much needed. One limitation is that the book may make a leader more fluent in new concepts, but the book is only a start at the practice, reflection, and development needed for true mastery.
**The book will be out on January 28th, 2020. I was provided an advance copy of this work for review purposes.
On "The Eschatological Trial of Jesus" in The Crucified God.
The resurrection, as God's new creation breaks into this world, means that the current system of guilt, shame, suffering and death cannot demonstrate the new creation. The world cannot comprehend the cross nor the resurrection but it will question and challenge those that, through faith, live in way that is fixed on God's future creation and against the world's grain.
The resurrection is God's demonstration of his righteousness. The righteousness in God does not ignore the victims and God does not empower the perpetrators because he died as one victim himself, and in so doing, he has disarmed and restored both of these groups. To make vengeance the future hope is ask that law win over sin; however, it is Grace that triumphed over law and sin. This is a scandal! This is not how our scales of justice balance. It is even more surprising, that the blaspheming rebel named Jesus was the first to experience the resurrection. This subversion of the world power structures, both corporate and interpersonal, cannot be understood inside the old creation. To be a person of hope, is to live in that future new creation.
July 21, 2018
I have been thoroughly challenged by the Crucified God. In the partial section of the Historical Trial of Jesus, Moltmann has described the relationship between Jesus the preacher and the Christ who is preached. To separate history and theology in this manner leaves many stating that Jesus, because of his death, was a failed preacher and that his message, self-referential as it was, died with him. Moltmann is showing that Jesus' preaching and the apostles preaching of him (which appear to have differences) are related in that they both are eschatological - they are focused on a future that is coming and is perpetually still to come. Jesus was the beginning and the apostles are the ones tasked with "what has begun". The cross has functioned as hard line marking history and kerygma (the confession and preaching of the early church), but Moltmann is tying the death, which purposely referred to as “crucified”, as a consequence of his ministry both to the secular authorities and the religious leaders. Embedded in his death are political reasons from authorities, religious reasons from his homeland, and Jesus' on theological reasons.
What can it all mean? At the cross we meet paradox, the one preaching the beginning of God’s kingdom was crushed by another kingdom, the one opening doors of love was declared a blasphemer, and the one healing was the one who died alone, and abandoned by God. Historically speaking, the question becomes, is the cross a refutation of his person or his preaching, or both? Theologically, how does the cross change the proclamation from the one Jesus made of himself to the one the apostles made of him?
The cross is the pivot point of all paradoxes of life. It is where the dead became the living, the abandoned the vindicated, and the humiliated the exalted.
What drew you to read this book?
I have been reading and rereading works of the contemporary historical Jesus scholarship. Over the last ten months, I have spent time with the thoughts of Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan, and N.T. Wright who, despite vast differences in emphasis and conclusion, begin with a similar assumption from source criticism about the New Testament canon. The assumption is that Mark's gospel was written first, and Matthew and Luke use it as a source while also adding new material from other sources and each expanding on the themes of Mark in their way (Luke is my favorite). However, as the fanciful movie The DaVinci Code made clear, this is not the only assumption on how Jesus came to be understood by early Christians. Elaine Pagel's thesis is that newly discovered Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John both show signs of having been written by rival factions of the 2nd and 3rd-century Christian church who were competing for followers and also for church authority. Pagel's work is an attempt to tell the story of what these communities might have practiced and believed without the strict interpretation given by the eventual winners of the debates (what we know as Orthodoxy). In fairness, the gnostic/new prophecy/mystery Christians didn’t suffer eradication. They are very much still present in the opinions of many who are willing to contemplate a Jesus who is a human guide to the light that is already present within (compare that to the opening of John for the beginning of the distinctions with orthodoxy).
What are your significant takeaways?
I enjoyed her dive into the historical and social factors surrounding the church fathers such as Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Valentinus, and Irenaeus. Her thesis is that Irenaeus drove the effort to develop the orthodox canons of faith and, of the scriptures, as a means of protecting the early church from division. Also, it is likely that debates about orthodoxy were emotionally charged due to the rampant persecution of Christians ( a young Irenaeus watched his teacher Polycarp be publicly executed for his belief). Emotionally, one can easily see that if your life is threatened for philosophy, it's very likely that you have already determined what type of philosophy you are willing to suffer for, in order to protect it.
What surprised you the most about what you learned?
I enjoyed the discussions about controversies between the followers of Thomas and John. Pagel believes that John's gospel is more emphatic about the divine nature of Jesus because it seeks to correct growing misunderstanding in Christian communities, namely among the gnostic/new prophecy/mystery Christian groups. Source criticism holds that Mark is the home base of historical Jesus material, but Pagel holds that John became the theological home base for orthodox Christology and then Irenaeus's effort made it the predecessor to the Nicene creeds
What questions do you have for the author?
Your book is a historical reflection and partially personal reflection on loss and grief. How did your own experience affect the way you view the four gospels and their relationship to the apocryphal gospels?
Why should someone else read this book?
Because you may be curious about why John is so different than Matthew, Mark and Luke, and why Thomas is so different than all four of the canonical gospels. If you are intrigued by history, you will enjoy the discussion on Valentinus and Irenaeus as rival theologian philosophers. You may come to see the Gospel of John with a new set of lenses!
How many Burritos does this one get out of five?
4/5 Elaine Pagel made this very accessible and intriguing. She creates space for the diverse views of the works she mentions without favoring one side overtly or creating caricatures of the conflicting views to advance her arguments.
I discovered mindfulness meditation in early 2016 and fully developed a daily practice this year. As meaningful as it is, it ought to come with a warning "Do Not Try This If You Are Not Ready to Work and Become Someone New." Sitting is the easy part, but staying seated and gradually opening space to become aware of the thoughts, feelings, and memories that come and pass is the hard part. This book helped me to develop new tools to offer kindness, care, and space for my experience in the moment.
As I have committed to my mediation practice over the past months, the most accessible analogy for the experience is to describe the practice as if you were developing an extra gear mentally and physically. Driving a stick shift is becoming a lost art, but in the late 90s I had as small Nissan pickup truck that allowed me to learn and enjoy this type of driving experience. Manual transmission have more "pep" when accelerating and that comes in handy getting in and out of tight or congested spaces. I used to wish that there was a gear between second and third on my truck, since I felt second was overworking while driving in residential areas and third made the truck drag. This type of extra gear would have made coasting without speeding require much less shifting. This is the feeling that began to emerge in the weeks and months after I committed to my practice. In moments of true anxiety, fear, and shame, following the prompts back to my breath became that coasting gear.
The book comes with practical examples of the meditations, sets of exercises, and encouragement through some of the common challenges. The author is psychotherapist and a Buddhist and his connection between both of these perspectives adds a great deal to the practice. With these tools, your reliance on external reassurances of safety slowly withdrawal and it's you and your acceptance and awareness that becomes the refuge. To borrow a thought, with mindfulness we can become "the ones we are waiting for."
Who is this book for?
Parker Palmer is an established thought leader that I recently came across via the “On Being” podcast. In particular, I was drawn into the podcast episode as he described his various adventures in activism, the Quaker community, and his reflective poise in a complex and changing world.