INTELLECT…Am I challenging my mind?


Man cannot live by bread alone. He also needs some facts. Did you know your intellect craves facts like your body craves food? And just as there are all kinds of foods to choose from, there are all kinds of “facts” available for your consumption. But I’m wondering…

Has your mind been fed intellectual junk food? 

Remember the commercial ad campaign that made this tagline famous: “Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste”? I do and I believe it.

The life of a leader’s mind is important. So many skills converge to make leadership work, but the intellect is the source and head of that fountain. These days, I’m concerned that this fountain is in danger of drying up.

When was the last time you read Jesus? Shakespeare? Plato? Aristotle? Homer? Thoreau? Emerson? Whitman? Tolstoy? To name only a few… 

Barren. This is the word many critics would use to describe the intellectual life of the average American today. And what about our leaders? Are our leaders engaging their minds in ways that move beyond task-thinking or project-managing? Do our leader’s thoughts venture out in search of beauty or are they controlled merely by the grind of duty?

I’m talking about leading beyond behavior modification. We leaders are preached to about changing the culture where we work, ad nauseam. But I want to go deeper into the minds and hearts of those we lead, including myself. As leaders, we don’t just aim to change culture, we aim to change the thinking that creates the unwanted culture.

“The biggest puzzle is not solving and fixing problems, per se, it is fixing the thinking that causes the problems.” – Michael LeGault

We don’t just need more leader-doers, we need more thinking leaders; with the ability to use logic and reason to draw meaning out of the complexities of modern-day living. This is not a luxury! As leaders, we need better critical thinking skills to guide us and our followers through the turbulent waters of globalism and topsy-turvy economic times. Real consequences are attached to stupidity and poor thinking!

How can you and I become better thinkers?

1. Read

Read. Widely.  J. Oswald Sanders quipped, “Leaders are readers”. Take into your mind great literature, poetry, sacred scripture. Lessen the time you spend consuming t.v. and trash culture.

2. Reflect

Ask yourself questions about what you read and learn. Examine claims and counter-claims, concepts, opinions. Also ask yourself questions about what you’re experiencing in your life. Cull from them life-lessons.

 “He who learns but does not think, is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” – Confucius

3. Reason

“Leaders are so action-oriented and have so many responsibilities that they are often guilty of moving all the time and neglecting to stop and take time to think. Yet this is one of the most important things leaders can do. A minute of thought is worth more than an hour of talk.” – John Maxwell  

Now I need to go take my own advice!







Remember the “Church Lady” from SNL? Comedian Dana Carvey portrayed a Puritanesque churchgoer hosting a made-up talk show called “Church Chat”. Guests on her “show” were exposed to her self-righteous rebukes delivered in a hilariously high and sanctimonious tone of voice. Don’t you wish all personal criticism could be that funny! When someone points out to me an area in my life they’ve noticed I could improve in, I have a choice. So do you. Here’s the choice: WILL WE BE MOLDED OR SCOLDED? 




As a leader I’m accustomed to receiving my share of criticism. What leader isn’t? I wish I could say that the older I get the less it hurts. But I can’t. For me, it always hurts. Emotionally, I mean.  I’m very sensitive; it’s my blessing and curse. My sensitivity enables me to profoundly connect with other people in positive ways but it also makes me vulnerable to deep psychological cuts and bruises. I’ve realized a raw reality about my leadership: How I choose to interpret criticism will determine whether I will merely GO through the pain or GROW through the pain. Either way, for me at least, it’s going to be painful. It’s just a matter of which attitude I’m going to adopt as I experience it. Most people don’t change when they “see the light”, they change when they “feel the heat”. Have you found that to be true? I have. I’ve learned firsthand the wisdom of the Proverb which says:

“Sometimes It takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.” – Proverbs 20:30 (GN)

Pain is motivating! Sitting on a tack gets me moving. When I’m pricked with a criticism, I want to be able to learn and grow from the experience. What about you? How well do you take criticism? Do you see it more as a time of molding or scolding; growth or grief? For example…

  • When your boss gives you an unfavorable performance review at work…
  • When your spouse points out how you could have handled that situation better…
  • When your child tells you’re not listening to them…
  • When your friend works up the courage to confront you about the unfair way you’re treating him/her…

Yes, these moments are painful…but to borrow a phrase from my fellow North Carolinian, John Cougar Mellencamp, can’t we “make it hurt so good”?

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” – Proverbs 27:6a (NKJV)

Criticism can be painful AND helpful. Just because criticism is unenjoyable doesn’t mean it’s disloyal. Especially if the person giving it to you is a friend.

Criticism becomes helpful when you become teachable. (tweet that)

Below I’ve listed some questions to ask yourself whenever you’re processing criticism leveled against you. I drew 5 of the 6 questions from Blaine Lee’s marvelous book The Power Principle. Next time you’re criticized ask yourself these questions to develop your teachability:

  1. Who is the source?
  2. What might I learn if I listen to them?
  3. Am I willing to learn from their criticism?
  4. Am I really listening?
  5. What can they teach me?
  6. Is there another way to look at things?

You can, if you choose, let criticism make you a better person.