Zeal is the overwhelming force of moral will, clarity, and desire to “get stuff done”----meaning the ability to achieve victory. Many-a-great plans have been drawn—strategies and tactics, only to have them fizzle in time or implode upon launch. Leaders find themselves besieged by budgets, demanding bosses, deadlines, petty personality problems in the office, uninspired co-workers, and clients and customers that don’t make you feel appreciated. Being overwhelmed, leaders want to find a cave to hide in and lick their mental and emotional wounds. Does this sound familiar?
From where can we draw wisdom to meet these enormous daily challenges? The great biblical text from the prophet Isaiah says, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Notice that Isaiah doesn’t attribute God’s accomplishments to His intelligence or strength, but instead to His zeal. The zeal to live the right way and do good was captured by Edmund Burke’s saying, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” said Edmund Burke. Good overcomes evil, if and only if, we as leaders are moved by zeal that is born in what is right so that it changes what is wrong.
In 33 AD, Jesus was incensed at the scandalous use of the temple in His day. He made a chord of whips, entered the temple, turned over money-changing tables single-handedly, and threw out the money-changers. Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “I rationally concluded this was the best course of action.” He didn’t create a T-Chart of pros and cons and decide this was the best course of action. What were the motives for Jesus’ actions? He says, “Zeal for my Father’s house will consume me”.
Pursuing your purpose with zeal is how you are created to live! Zeal, as stated before, is the overwhelming force of moral will, clarity, and desire to “get stuff done”----meaning the ability to achieve victory.
As a leader, ask two questions:
Zeal is the attribute that does not cohabit well with “business as usual” or it’s “just another day at the office”. Zeal overwhelms “normalness”. Zeal compels us to excel beyond norms pushing processes to their limits, and inviting team members toward heights never seen before. Zeal takes wrong and overwhelms it into straightness. It takes despair and imposes upon it dynamism and destiny. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all”---the corollary is that it’s zeal which puts pain and fatigue back into its small place in our march to victory.
As a leader, who wins your daily battles? Does inconsistency win? Laziness? Cynicism? Or does zeal arise within you, to conquer these parasitical traits? What about failed time management? Lack of organization? Poor execution? Does your zeal overcome these damaging evils that hinder you from fulfilling your destiny? Zeal overwhelms anxiety, despair, and the demons of fear.
Two powerful effects of zeal:
Zeal determines the extent to which you overcome inertia, laziness, frustration, and fear to achieve your objective. One of the enemies of zeal is “it has always worked” the way it does now. As a leader, ask yourself if the tactics, culture, and policies you are living with now the best they can be? Zeal demands the best; it doesn’t settle for less. Zeal takes over our lives and fights when others won’t fight. It excels when others are too tired and too despairing to carry on. Zeal constantly destroys the little petty things before they become bigger challenges that get in the way of our mission.
Zeal makes better people of us all—it makes better leaders. Alexander the Great and Julius Ceasar won the admiration of their soldiers with stories of zeal leading war charges that would likely get them killed! Julius Ceasar, fighting an enemy army, outnumbered two-to-one ripped his helmet off, snatched a common sword from one of his infantry men, and charged uphill against the arrows and slings of the enemy. His men would forever love him and follow him to the ends of the earth. Alexander the Great zealously besieged a wall of the enemy, climbing and leading the charge, only to have the ladder fall apart and his men fall to the ground underneath him. Instead of safely falling back into the arms of his men, Alexander stood atop the enemy wall alone using his sword skills fighting the enemy until a new ladder was erected and help arrived. Alexander was carried off the battlefield with a spear puncturing his lungs.
Zeal is not taught; it is caught! It rises up within you. It takes on a life of its own reshaping you to be a reformer. It takes you by surprise. Zeal makes you bolder, more courageous, and more capable of accomplishment than otherwise would be true.
Many are the records of those who have used swords, cannons, and weapons of war to conquer the earth. But only One invaded the earth conquering hearts by wielding the sword and shield of humility. Napoleon, the French Emperor and conqueror said, “Alexander, Charlemagne and myself all tried to found an empire on force and we failed. Jesus Christ is building an empire on love, and today there are millions of people who would gladly die for His sake.”
Let us take lessons from this Good Friday. In this twilight zone of quarantining, there will be for the first time in recorded history, no citizens since the “anno domini” inception that will gather in churches to worship the Messiah. Whatever the earthly madness of COVID 19 that has locked us in our homes, we count ourselves blessed---if only to reflect on this Easter season concerning the Son of Man, the risen Savior.
Has any humbler sacrifice been made than that of Christ? Saint Paul declares:
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death---even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” Philippians 2:6-11
Prior to Christ, pride, honor, and courage were the virtues since Eden’s revolution that ruled men. Ancient empires swaggered in man-made glory like that of Sennacherib’s Assyria, the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Babylonians, and the Persians before. Then arrived Christ, the man, the Savior. Through Christ’s invasion of earth, humility arose, as the name of Jesus touched the lips of citizens through healings, catechism, sacraments, and weekly worship. Upside down, the world was turned in 33 AD, by One man who humbled himself to the point of death so lots of nobodies could become somebodies.
Jesus single-handedly redefined western civilization in the way of humility.
What kind of man, imbued with such power to rule the earth, would limit himself to the weapons of love and humility? Yet, with only love as His guide and humility as the weapon of choice, Jesus manages in every generation of mankind, to invade our personal brokenness, feeble ways, and insecurities and masterfully transform us into wholeness.
His birth was not in the Golden courts of Rome, but in a horse’s trough. Rome was not his home; Nazareth was. His meteoric rise to from carpenter to king was fueled by a mission to serve others by giving everything He had away--- his life and shed blood under orders of crucifixion. All for what? To conquer death and sin, thereby, bringing life and hope to us all.
From the ashes of humility comes the One with extraordinary power to calm storms, heal the sick, and manufacture bread. “I only do what the Father does,” says Jesus. Raises the dead, heals lepers, and casts out disease and demons at every turn---and Jesus only says, “I and the Father are one….If you do not believe me, then believe in the miracles I have done”.
In Jesus is the great elegance of humility and power, meekness and authority, mercy and judgment, gentleness and ferocity---being used on our behalf perfecting us in our times of need.
Above all, on Easter Sunday we remember the enormity of abuse and willing pain of crucifixion that ravaged the Son of God’s body. Through Christ’s death, His words scandalously ring true humbling the most prideful of us all saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Forgive them? Since when do kings hang from a cross for 6 hours, only to forgive those who tortured him to death---and then ask us to do the same for others? Buried, left for dead, with tomb guarded by Roman centurions, at which time the historical narrative perks up with delight—-the tomb is empty on the 3rd day, the bloody linens remain, and the body is gone! Resurrected, ascended, and seated at the right hand of the Father, the Son of God did for us what we could not do for ourselves---He spilled his precious blood on the cross to give us abundant life today with victory over sin, death, and despair.
Let us remember the secret weapon of Easter, humility, that has conquered the hearts of millions on every continent. Before we, as leaders, venture into tomorrow, may our hearts today be arrested with the secret weapon of Easter, so that we may live the right way as world-changers
by Mark Nusbaum
The New Yorker posted an article asking in a round-about way: what's wrong with government? Why on earth do we need a band of citizens like the Cajun Navy to address monumental floods that destroy hundreds of thousands of homes? Katrina in 2004 and Baton Rouge in 2016 and Houston in 2017 highlights the woefully perceived inadequate government responses to needs.
Government, on a large scale has power and resources to meet people's needs. They lack the core values that private citizens are capable of displaying:
Entrepreneurial value means you think and act like an owner. Good individuals inside governing agencies do not own the property or community they are serving. Nothing personal is in jeopardy. They don't think and act like owners because the crisis and problems at hand are not personal--the trained bureaucrat gets a paycheck. That's what this all too often means regardless of what happens. This crisis is another impersonal number in another impersonal city.
Agency decisions are not made necessarily based upon what's good for the fellow citizen and his property. It's made based upon what works for the regulations within the bureaucracy. Where the church, neighbor, or private citizen might be inspired to meet the needs of others with excellence, the bureaucracy has no incentive to think and act like owners. Even good people inside agencies doing their best get overwhelmed by culture of entrepreneurial neglect and can't move any faster or effective than the other parts of government allow.
People care. Bureaucracy doesn't care. People invest, share, give, help, and plant into other people's lives. Bureaucracy mass produces and delivers resources slowly. Bureaucracy lacks transparency and accountability. Bureaucracy has nothing to invest, nothing to share, or plant into people's lives. When things don't go well, the bureaucracy gets blamed so the individuals in the bureaucracy can get their normal paychecks and slide by to the next disaster.
People give from their heart. Bureaucracy has no heart. It can't. It's shrouded unaccountable processes. At best, larger governing institutions like FEMA are a utilitarian entity trying to do their best. But bureaucracy, by nature, lacks the accountability, transparency, and personal
Investment to be wholly effective. Instead, the bureaucracy is housed with internal quirks, power struggles, and territorial ambitions unknown to the naked eye.
Consider Baton Rouge in 2016 and Houston in 2017 with thousands of Dunkirk type private citizens with boats descending at places of devastation going to work rescuing lives around the clock without stopping. These folks are inspired and have a sense of urgency. They use process to produce results, not as an end to itself. Leaders displaying Human Capital are never forgotten because they display a powerful and personal effectiveness that makes the lives of others better. Human Capital is about being timely, personal, and effective. It's about making people's lives better.
The New Yorker stated, "After the floods, the Cajun Navy became heroes in Baton Rouge. Newspapers celebrated them; they were the grand marshals of local parades; the lieutenant governor of Louisiana took a special interest in their project. There were hundreds of families like the Bells, who felt that they owed their safety not to the distant forces of government but to a neighbor who had put himself at risk to help them.
Government is defined by bureaucracy. Government can be effective in large operations. But bureaucracy doesn't do human capital well. It can't. Bureaucracy has too many boxes to check, rules to follow, and objectives to accomplish. It's inflexible and uncaring because the tyranny of forms, procedures, policies, and unaccountable figures outstrips the ability to employ human capital.
Tacit Market Knowledge
Learning through experiences to become better to gain an advantage--
Alexander Middle School in Katy, Texas marked the location where local efforts gathered for command and control decisions to address extreme flooding. Receiving hundreds of calls and Facebook posts, directing volunteers with boats to these stranded people, transporting them, and finding shelters was a spontaneous effort of local citizens. It cropped up out of chaos. Lots of heart, urgency, and flexibility fueled the goal which was to save people and get them into local shelters.
FEMA then arrived 3 days after the hurricane and took over Alexander Middle School. They took half of the building and let the volunteers know they could move to another part of the building. FEMA was taking over. Disaster is their main focus. It's their turn to shine and do what they have been preparing Year-round to do.
Volunteers who were focused, energetic, inspired, and working with a sense of urgency were now marginalized. As volunteers offered to leave the premises, the FEMA director said that wouldn't be good--we don't know where to go, how to deploy help, where the existing shelters are, or where to direct incoming distress calls. We don't know anything about the local terrain, people, churches, or food pantries. We only have other 1-800's to other government-created departments to talk to. They won't be of any help.
The reality was director walked into an established culture of effective operations working at maximum capacity with a full knowledge of resources, terrain, people, and leaders in the community. His team from, all parts of the country, recognized that without the organic order and systems that sprung up, he would be ineffective.
FEMA is a powerful organization. But they lack Tacit Market Knowledge. FEMA saw early they had to import the specialized knowledge of local citizens who were inspired, knowledgeable, focused, prepared, and urgently working to save lives.
Hurricane Harvey has leadership lessons for us all. Low levels of entrepreneurial value, human capital, and tacit Market Knowledge exists in typical government activity. But individuals who are growing leaders exhibit the 3 core values in high amounts. Thinking like an owner, caring personally, and continuously learning to be better marks impressive people and organizations.