Colin Powell’s 13 Rules


I stumbled upon General Colin Powell’s Rule. I was amazed and thankful that I subscribe to the lion’s share of his rule, albeit with slightly different wording. Should you need some guiding principles to move you this year, I’d suggest these.

General Colin Powell’s Rules:

1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your
position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone
else make yours.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

25 Great Books To Read This Fall


People ask me for good book recommendations on a regular basis. I love books. I admit, I have too many. I also admit checking books out at the library has never worked for me. For whatever reason, I need to own, to possess, to write in the books that mentor, entertain and form me. I would probably be a millionaire if I could merely check them out at my local library.

When I am asked for a recommendation, I tend to ask questions in order to find out where a particular person is at on their journey; what they are hoping the book will do for them; or what deeper work they sense God is up to in their lives. After I ponder their answers, I have multiple good ‘old friends’ whose clothing of worn, aged pages might be a potential help or new love.

As Fall approaches, and you have visions of entering into the pages of a biblio-journey that will change your life, while savoring a steaming cup of dark roast coffee on a chilly misty morning next to the warmth of your crackling fire, then read on. Here are some offerings that you may not have read.

Here is my disclaimer. I read widely. I read critically. I don’t always read books that I agree with, in fact I generally find ideas that I disagree with in almost every book. So there will be authors in my list that you might think, “Really Monty? I can’t believe you recommended that book!”

It seems we have lost the ability to discern, critique and think for ourselves. We tend to read books exclusively by people we like, or who think exactly as we do. We dislike being stretched, or heaven forbid, challenged in what we think or believe. We need to learn to read, ruminate, ponder, dialog, disagree, stretch and ultimately grow. To that end, we all need some authors who cause us to ask tougher, deeper question freeing us from tribal dominance and the status-quo.

A final disclaimer, the books are not in any order, just some titles you might not have encountered yet.

Having said that, here are some books to consider reading this Fall:

  1. Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. by Eric Metaxas
  2. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, by Walter Brueggeman
  3. Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry. by Ruth Haley Barton
  4. The Way of a Pilgrim (Russian Spiritual Classic). by anonymous
  5. The Normal Christian Life. by Watchman Lee
  6. The Complete Stories (FSG Classics). by Flannery O’Connor
  7. The Prodigal God. by Tim Keller
  8. Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. by Christena Cleveland
  9. Ruthless Trust. by Brennan Manning
  10. The Singer. By Calvin Miller
  11. Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked . by Chris Matthews
  12. The Sparrow. by Mary Doria Russell
  13. The Cure. by Bill Thrall
  14. The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea. by Bob Burg
  15. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. by Gregory Boyle
  16. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Marshall Goldsmith
  17. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. by N. T. Wright
  18. The Alchemist. by Paulo Coelho
  19. The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. by Scot Mcknight
  20. Wisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh. by Sadhu Sundar Singh
  21. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perennial Modern Classics). by Annie Dillard
  22. The God of Small Things: A Novel. by Arundhati Roy
  23. Night (Night). by Elie Wiesel
  24. The Shack. by Wm. Paul Young
  25. Bonus book: Sacred Space. by MC Wright 🙂

The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants…


“The heart wants what the heart wants.”

I believe Emily Dickinson was the person who coined the phrase. Generally there is a tired-soft-sigh released into the universe when this is spoken. Why do people say this? Well this incantation is intoned when you believe someone made a bad choice that fails the test of reason, rationality and intelligence. Sometimes people have a broken chooser.

Maybe a better way to say it is “The will- will choose whatever the will wants regardless of the advice given.” But that is not as pretty or poetic is it?

The prophet Jeremiah had some thoughts about the heart too:

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
    a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
    and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
    I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
    not as they pretend to be.” 17:9-10

Leaders make decisions every day that confront what the heart wants.

When you make a decision that goes against what the heart of someone wants, you generally are labeled as bad, evil or wrong by the offended heart and the friends of the offended heart who have heard a partial and perspectively limited rendition.

This is when the sigh is exhaled, and the words “the heart wants what the heart wants” mystically fill the air.

Truly, this is a daily reality for those in leadership and it takes more than thick skin to lead through the brokeness of life.

There are three things that every leader needs to employ while navigating the minefield of people’s perceptions and opinions.


I recently was leading through a no win situation. When you find yourself in a no-win situation the worst thing you can do is simply look at your pros and cons list and go with the best potential outcome. If you lead in this fashion, you will always second guess yourself while having all sides mad at you.

Practicing Spiritual Discernment is the best way to lead when all your options leave you with angry people. Listening prayer finds God in extended-focused-silence and intense awareness. Discernment moves you into the heart and mind of God to seek His will and direction rather than your best decision on a matter or issue. God will speak, give an impression, and/or reveal Himself in such a way that you and those with you will experience a unified sense of what to do. When you are in a no-win decision-making process, a unified discernment eliminates second guessing your best decision. Your soul senses a peaceful confirmation of what you need to do no matter how hard it will be. This is a powerful ally when you must have hard conversations. If you are finding consensus elusive, stay with practicing discernment until you reach it…this is both powerful and faith building.


Grace is the great equalizer of all things. We give grace when it is least expected and least deserved…and this is why grace has always been scandalous. It defies the norm, it goes where no man has gone before. Hard conversations need to be bathed in grace before and after. When your decision causes anger, disillusionment or discouragement, practicing grace is critical to creating the space for healing to happen. Without grace, combat will be the only outcome. Grace does not guarantee receptivity though…it simply ensures that you stay on the high road when you are taking some blows.

Jesus spoke into the lives of many who didn’t want to hear the truth He was delivering. When He said, “he who has ears to hear let him hear…” Although He knew that many hearts were not ready or receptive to what He was saying, His response was never tit-for-tat, generally, He asked some questions that caused people to think deeper about their situation.

I have found that grace-filled conversations have kept the relationship alive even while tensions were still alive and well.


You can’t control people…
You can’t control what they think…
You can’t control the circumstances of life…

The only thing you can control is you, and even that is hard! When leading through no win situations you must practice spiritual discernment bathed in grace. After you have received what you sense is God’s direction…say what you need to say and release the person and situation to God.

The problem is…

We want to justify our decisions when people are angry or disagree.
We desperately want people to like us, but that isn’t always possible.
We want to rehash and re-explain until they understand what we were trying to say…but that is often impossible.

So, breathe deeply, trust ferociously and release…
Believe and trust the confirmation you sensed from God…
Pray God’s healing presence into the situation and the people involved…
Stay rooted in God and in love…

Most importantly, stay available because God is always at work and things are never as they seem.

He just might give you an oportunity to experience the miracle of restoration and reconciliation as you continue to discern and release through the power of His grace.


Don’t Govern, Lead

In his book Master Leaders, George Barna has compiled a great collection of leadership principles from thirty noted leaders. One area I resonated with was the differentiation between leadership and governance. The way you approach your leadership will greatly determine the success and growth of the thing you lead. Concerning this concept, Master Leaders notes:

masterleader_3d-2“You see a leader is the person who pursues noble goals with such intensity that others are drawn to those goals. Leadership is taking people where they are not already going. It is about redefining the possible…I have come to understand that leadership is different from governance. Governance is the process whereby minimums are established. In government, the law is passed, and it sets the minimum threshold for activity. If you don’t exceed that threshold, you are the subject of impositions and mandates. Leadership is different from governance because it doesn’t establish the lowest and least that is acceptable, but it inspires people to their highest and best. Whereas governance operates on the basis of mandates, imposition, punishment, and things like that, leadership operates on the basis of models. The outcome of governance is the establishment of a floor. The outcome of leadership is people operating at their highest and best.

This really comes down to a difference between managing and inspiring. The manager will always manage lower level outcomes whereas the one who inspires can see the impossible become reality.

Management focuses on rules, regulations and status quo, and receives exactly that. The one who inspires focuses on potentiality and shattering the status quo.

The difference can also be seen in the kinds of questions these two leaders ask: The manager asks, “How do “I” maintain control and get a task accomplished with the least amount of trouble?” The visionary leader asks, “What have “we” never tried before?”

Managers tend to focus on self, Visionaries/inspirers focus on the team. Both are needed, but an organization with a manager in the lead role will limit it’s potential.

Great leadership is about connecting people to each other and a preferred future that is worthy of pursuit.

Seven Habits Great Leaders Share


I have had the opportunity to work with and interact with some incredible leaders over the years. The more you hang out with a particular group of people, the more you begin to see patterns and similarities in key areas. The following are some key areas of commonality I have encountered among some great leaders that are worth considering and embracing:

1.  Great Leaders Balance Their Energy:

Too many people spend too much energy simply being busy. There is a big difference between working busy and working smart. When you are constantly saying that you are “too busy” you are right! Great leaders work smart, delegate well and balance their input and output. If you are constantly running on adrenaline, you are depleting your cognitive abilities to react and respond well. Just like the damage a car would experience if it ran at 10k RPMs constantly, eventually the human body will “burn up” and “melt down.” We hear people say, “I hit the wall,” or “I burnt out,”or “I crashed.” Those are all very visual analogies describing what happens when leaders don’t manage their energies. Great leaders make sure that they are building margin into their lives by rest, exercise, meditation, study, and even scheduling people loads that are doable. When a leader has energy they lead from a place of health and centeredness instead of chaos and reaction.

“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.” ~Brian Tracy 

2.  Great Leaders Focus on Their Strengths:

Most of the great leaders I have encountered focused on leading from their strengths and not trying to conquer and reform their weaknesses. This is not to say that they were unaware, ignorant or indifferent to their weaknesses. They continued to grow and improve, but by concentrating more on what they were good at propelled them much farther than they would have gone if they were more concerned about improving their areas of weakness. Most of the great leaders surrounded themselves with people who were strong where they were weak and empowered them in those areas. This way everyone including the organization as a whole experienced growth and forward movement. This requires a good sense of self-awareness and an ability to put the ego aside and acknowledge your weaknesses and allow for others to excel where you are not as well gifted.

“The great mystery isn’t that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific! Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jascha Heifetz probably couldn’t play the trumpet very well.” ~ Peter Drucker

3. Great Leaders Limit Negative Thinking:

This is so important. I have never met a great leader who has a negative attitude or outlook. Negativity breeds pessimism, defeatism, and can destroy a marriage, team or organization. Great leaders exhibit an ability to see beyond the obstacles, through the valleys, and above the dirt of the ground floor. They have a 30 thousand foot view of things and choose to limit negative thoughts. This does not mean that they are in denial, no, rather they choose to believe in something bigger than themselves and tenaciously cling onto faith and hope in their vision. The person who thinks it can’t be done and the person who thinks it can be done are both right. We establish our outcomes by the way we frame our thought processes. Think small and receive small. Think big and receive big. Great leaders make positive thinking and positive interactions a daily necessity.

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” ~Zig Ziglar 

4. Great Leaders Focus On Something Bigger Than Themselves:

Truly great leaders live for something bigger than themselves. Something grander than money. Something beyond self gratification. They long to see people helped, communities healed, injustice dealt with and the marginalized empowered. These leaders have a sense of “God” and calling in their lives. They know that their own life is not an accident and that they have a divine purpose to fulfill before they breathe their last breath. This drives them to accomplish great things aided by the divine power that God infuses them with. If your greatest dream is to win the powerball your vision is too small. Powerball thinkers never accomplish anything because they think change is connected to money. Money follows vision…vision never follows money.

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” ~ Goethe

5. Great Leaders Empower Others:

Leadership is not about tasks, it is about empowering others.  The great leaders experience exponential growth because they do not limit themselves to what they alone can do, instead they empower others and this creates a tidal-wave of compounding returns. Equipping, delegation, time investment, and relational care are the tools to empower the people around us. When leaders micro-manage and keep their fingers intertwined in key areas they are choosing to limit growth and success. Empowering the right people is perhaps the fastest road to success.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” ~Sam Walton 

6. Great Leaders Hang Out With Great Leaders:

Are you always helping someone who is needy? Are you constantly the only one in your circle who is giving advice, consolation and help? If you have surrounded yourself with friends who are less successful than you then you will cease to grow as a better leader. We need to be investing in those who are not yet at our level, but we also must have relationships that are pouring into and improving us as well. Great leaders tend to hang out with other leaders who are as successful or more successful for the most part.

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.” ~Ronald Reagan

7. Great Leaders Work Hard:

For a great leader there is no such thing as luck, only hard work positioned and employed at the right times and with consistency and perseverance. These leaders know that things don’t just drop from the sky, even though it might seem that way to those who look at their lives. Rolled up sleeves and worn out knees are the trademark of great leaders. They are not afraid to work and never look for the easiest route. Instead, they work hard to ensure no corners were cut, and integrity has the final word on what they are accomplishing. While great leaders work hard, remember that since they balance their energy and work smart, it appears that they have available time to enjoy life, and guess what? They do!

“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” ~Vince Lombardi