Each year at Northwest University we host a couple of days of New Student Orientation at the beginning of the academic year—perhaps the most exciting days of the year! Students and their parents tend to rave about the experience, as they plunge delightedly into life at a Christ-centered university.
Changes are inevitable. Some things never change. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr refers to that reality in his famous Serenity Prayer in its petition that God would grant “the serenity to change the things I can, accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” That particular serenity comes in mighty handy to leaders who face the challenge of generating change in their institutions.
I recently visited a community where my ancestors lived from 1845 until the 1930s. Nothing is left of the community except a white clapboard Baptist church and its cemetery—where four generations of my family lie buried.
Part 1 of this blog entry involved a single-case observation of family leadership transfer and an attempt to derive general principles from that case. To test my observations, I sent the piece to my friend David W. Barnett, whose parents “discipled” him in business leadership and inspired him to pursue a PhD dissertation in leadership at Benedictine University.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, about 90 percent of American businesses are family-owned or controlled.” (https://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/family-owned-businesses.html). That statistic apparently offers an impressive hope for the future prosperity of many families, but in fact, “less than one-third of family-owned businesses survive the transition from the first generation of ownership to the second, and only 13 percent . . . remain in the family over 60 years.” Clearly, in America, the transfer of business leadership within families faces significant challenges.
Most people universally agree that leaders should not seek glory, but in contrast, the Bible implies that leaders—and everyone else—should seek glory. In Romans 2:6–7, Paul says God, “will repay each person according to what they have done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” In fact, leaders (and all of us) should seek glory. But conventional wisdom also has a point. Paul follows up his exhortation to seek glory with the words, “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” So we should “seek glory,” and that does not equate to “self-seeking,” but rather stands as the opposite.
In March I had the privilege of preaching in Spanish at a local Hispanic church on the topic of the Lord’s Prayer. So many themes from the Lord’s Prayer speak directly to the immigrant experience, but the final point of my sermon had to do with our tendency to become enchanted with this world—enchanted in a sense similar to “bewitched.” The Apostle John in the New Testament tells us that God “so loved the world” (John 3:16). But we are also warned to not “love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1 John 2:15).
Investment and Trade Fair in Zhengzhou, China, as part of a trade delegation from Bellevue, Washington. At a small dinner with the Trade Minister for Henan province, I told the dignitaries around the table that America’s greatest export is hope. Such an export in turn creates our greatest import: immigrants. Drawn to America by the real hope that our system offers for a better life, those newcomers can rise to the highest expressions of American identity, freedom, and influence within their lifetime. As proof of the concept, our group included four highly successful Chinese-American immigrants, now citizens, including a former mayor and current city councilman from Bellevue.
In recent years, two books made a major impact on the popular discussion of decision-making, especially in the business context: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Both books recognize that snap decisions can be more effective than slow, careful, rational decision-making, but they can also be catastrophic.
At the President's Banquet this year, I told the story of how, on November 27 at the Vanguard University Soccer complex in Costa Mesa, California, I had one of the greatest moments I have experienced as President of Northwest University. As our Sports Information office reported, "The women's teams from NU and Vanguard remained scoreless throughout regulation, with Northwest's goalkeeper Kat Sanchez having to save only two shots. Northwest put three shots on goal in regulation, and finally found their winning goal in the fourth minute of extra time when a pass from Jaclyn Metz allowed Makenna Wheeler to put in the golden goal." Immediately after we scored, I rushed to the field to be with the victors, just in time to hear Kat cry out, "We really worshipped God today!"