Colorado Springs Christian Schools | Leadership Lessons

Roland Pic Green Shirt

LEADERSHIP LESSONS

Leadership is about influence. Effective leadership is influencing others in a clear direction for a well-defined purpose. In each lesson, we will look at various principles of leadership and the impact that they have on us personally and professionally.

In His Grip,

Roland F. DeRenzo, Ed.D.

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December 2016 – Leadership Lesson – HARMONY AND UNITY

In Colossians 3:12-16, we are given a description of what true harmony and unity look like.  Our theme this year at CSCS is transformation and one of the areas we see transformational change is in the lives of those who have been called to serve here at CSCS.  In the passage above, we find God directs His admonition to the children of God, who have been set apart and covered with His love.  He goes on to say that those who find this alignment in their hearts will demonstrate it by the following five characteristics:

Compassion         Kindness        Humility        Gentleness         Patience

These are behavioral characteristics of a transformed heart brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit.  We, as human beings, don’t naturally gravitate in being compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.  If you want to test this out, just watch toddlers.  No one teaches them to be selfish, and to want everything to be centered around them.  Parents learn early on that it is imperative to teach them to share, to be kind to others, and so on.

When personal transformation is at work, and these behaviors are lived out then the result is harmony and unity.  I define unity as agreeing on the common mission or purpose and then accepting and celebrating each other’s differences.  Harmony is the blending of those unique differences or gifting which leads to the accomplishing of the mission.

Recently, I came across the following information by Pastor David Jeremiah that addressed both harmony and unity.  Here are some principles and rules whereby we can maintain both:

Four Principles for Harmony and Joy

  1. Don’t be defeated—Stand
  2. Don’t be divisive—Be of the same mind
  3. Don’t be discouraged—Rejoice in the Lord
  4. Don’t’ be defensive—Let your generosity be known to all people

Six Rules for Unity and Joy

  1. Agree more—Argue less
  2. Listen more—Talk less
  3. Produce more—advertise less
  4. Confess more—Accuse less
  5. Laugh more—Fret less
  6. Give more—Receive less

In this season of Christmas when joy is emphasized because of the greatest gift ever given to mankind; the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a blessing to know that we can experience the gifts of unity and harmony.  It is such a privilege to serve here at CSCS and to know that God is still in the business of transformation.

Roland F. DeRenzo

mouse

August 2015

Last week, our faculty and staff gathered at our Woodland Park campus for our staff retreat to kick off the new school year.  At that time, I introduced briefly the missional and organizational standards that I have been working with over the past year.  In this edition of the Leadership Lesson, I want to give you the background on how I came to think about these standards. I want to share some further clarification of them, and then I hope to stimulate your thinking and maybe even provoke your personal paradigm, which may provide for some interesting and spirited discussion.

Last year as part of my sabbatical, I had the privilege of spending some time developing my own personal leadership through a number of activities and events.  One of the most rewarding, and the one that has a direct impact on CSCS, is the one day behind the scenes tour, sponsored by the Disney Institute.  In preparation for my trip to Orlando, I had read a number of books recommended to give both the background and history of Walt Disney World (WDW).  One of the things that you hear from the people who either work for WDW or live in the area is that they “work for the Mouse” or that “it was all started with a Mouse”.

Well this lesson is entitled, “What I Learned from the Mouse”, and the missional and organizational standards that follow were inspired by the mouse.  One of the things that most impressed me is how WDW, which now employs about 58,000 employees known as cast members, manages to keep the mission alive through the behavior of each cast member.  In other words, no matter if you are picking up paper or working in entertainment, or have an executive level position, you live out the standards that are WDW.

So in this lesson, and the one that follows, I am going to share the missional and organizational standards of CSCS that I developed as a result of watching a company that has become the benchmark in entertainment, resorts and amusement parks.  At the end of this lesson, I have included a few of the books that I have read on this journey and if you want to do more reading about the WDW way you can pick up a few of them.

Our mission at CSCS is to provide an excellent education, from a Christ-centered biblical perspective, for life-long service.  I spent time last spring thinking a lot about our mission and how to live it out in front of those we serve rather than just be able to recite it or post it on the walls of the institution.  Here are the four qualities or values of the mission:

  1. Educational Excellence
  2. Vibrant Christ-centeredness
  3. The Holy Spirit informs both the decisions and direction of CSCS
  4. Mission over me

Educational Excellence.  This is the easiest of the four to define because it states why we exists.  We are an educational institution and we are charged with delivering an excellent education.  That means that we want our students to be prepared intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically.  We do not sacrifice one of those virtues for the sake of another nor do we take short cuts or become complacent in teaching, modeling and mentoring each of our students in all of these areas.  Excellence is not being the best at everything, but rather, being the best and doing the best with what we have at our disposal at the moment the situation or circumstance presents itself.  That means preparation and practice are key ingredients to living consistently a life of excellence and then accepting no less as a part of CSCS.

Vibrant Christ-centeredness.  When I hear the word “vibrant” I think of brilliant colors that an artist paints on a blank canvas, or a brilliant sunset with pinks, reds and blues that fill the sky.  I also think of passion or energy when I think of living a life with vibrancy.  So, with Christ-centeredness, I am drawn to the idea of a passionate pursuit of following Jesus, and a life full of energy lived with hope and optimism.

The Holy Spirit informs both the decisions and direction of CSCS.  At CSCS we hear all the time from visitors that there is a different spirit that they experience when they walk into CSCS.  That is the freedom of the Holy Spirit and so, if the Spirit of God is free to reign, then He should also be free to direct our decisions and direction.  This takes humility on our part to admit that “we don’t know all the answers” and we are willing to trust Him to lead us both in our discovery of the right answers and the courage to live them out.  It also means being flexible and compliant when the answer is given to move in a different direction or the decision is a ‘no’ for the moment.

Mission over Me. This is the servant leadership part of our mission.  What is says is that we value others and we seek to be a completer and fulfill the role that God has given to each of us for the sake of the mission and the growth of the team.  The interesting thing about this perspective is that when we practice it consistently, we are completed and we grow as well.  Sometimes this also may mean that we have to give up something personally to go up to a higher missional level.

What does it all mean?  Well, it lays out for us a clear path to follow in order to grow personally and to live missional.  It means that we are letting go of trying to be perfect and strive for being consistent and understanding the true meaning of excellence.  It means living it first in our lives and being passionate about our relationship with Christ, then it becomes contagious to those who follow.  It means being humble to keep learning, flexible to keep changing into all Christ has in mind for us.  Finally it means having the same attitude as Christ when he says in Philippians 2 that he was obedient to his mission of the cross, humble in his calling to take on the form of a servant, and excellent in fulfilling all that God had in mind for him and confirmed it by saying, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

In His Grip,

Roland F. DeRenzo

Let me know what you think and share your comments with me and your colleagues to further our discovery and discussion.

Here is a short bibliography of some of the books on Disney Leadership:

Dream it Do it by Marty Sklar

The Disney Way by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson

How to be Like Walt by Pat Williams

In the Service of the Mouse by Jack Linquist

Be our Guest by The Disney Institute

Creating Magic:  10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell

The Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell

Inside the Magic Kingdom: Seven Keys to Disney’s Success by Tom Connellan[/prk_accordion]

“What I Learned from the Mouse”    Part II

In the last leadership lesson, we reviewed the missional standards of CSCS that both define our values and inform our decisions.  For a quick review,  the missional standards are:

  1. Educational Excellence
  2. Vibrant Christ-centeredness
  3. The decisions and direction of CSCS are directed by the Holy Spirit
  4. Mission over me

In this lesson, I would like to share the organizational standards which are the behaviors that come from living out the missional values.  Most organizations have a mission statement but few have missional standards.  It is one thing to hang a mission statement on the wall but it is something totally different to live the mission from the heart.

It was Walt Disney who once said, “You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world—but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

At CSCS we often speak about the heart of the matter and that the teacher is at the heart of everything we do.  So we have taken the acronym HEART and come up with these behavioral values:

  1. Healthy, safe environment
  2. Excellence in every facet of the institution
  3. Accountability in behavior
  4. Relational in actions
  5. Truthful and reliable in all situations

A healthy, safe environment means that we pay attention to conditions both internally and externally.  At CSCS, we were one of the first Christian schools several years ago to add a Security Director to our leadership team.  Our commitment to security and safety is important, not just to the physical campus, but also in the classroom.  For you as parents, it is paramount that you know that you can trust the teacher that is helping to shape and mold the mind, values and life for your child.  Our commitment to being Christ-centered from a Biblical perspective is your assurance that the spiritual environment is consistent and nurturing for your children and young people.

The excellence in every facet of the institution means that we will not cut corners or allow mediocrity to creep in and rule the day.  This is part attitude and part behavior.  It means that we will strive to do the best we can with the resources we are blessed with to achieve the God-given purpose.  Whether that is in the classroom or on the athletic field or in the concert hall, we are committed to model excellence in our lives and then mentor those young lives God has entrusted to CSCS.

Accountability in behavior means that personal responsibility for our own behavior is at the forefront of our expectations for each other as a staff.  In the leadership team here at CSCS we have taken it a step further by developing our shared leadership values and have signed a covenant with each other to live these leadership values out in our personal and professional lives. We believe what it says in Luke 6:40, “…But everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher..”  I like the admonition that the Apostle Paul gave in I Corinthians 11:1 that says, “…follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Relational in actions means serving others and placing their needs above my own.  Our theme verse for this year says it well in Philippians 2:3-4; “…Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking out for your own interests but each of you to the interests of others…”  Loving one another as Christ loves us and serving each other as Christ has commanded is the path to true and lasting relationships.

Truthful and reliable in all situations means that what we say in word is backed up in our actions.  I believe it was Francis of Assisi who said; “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” That is our desire as staff at CSCS, to be authentic not perfect, loving not hateful, serving not served.  In a world that has it wrong and sends the wrong message, it is both a blessing and privilege to be able to serve here at CSCS.

Yes, Walt Disney was right that it takes people to make the dream a reality, but it takes Christ to transform the heart, renew the mind, and direct the life.  What a Savior we serve!

Blessings,

Roland F. DeRenzo

Superintendent of Schools

Colorado Springs Christian Schools

“The Road to Servant Leadership”]So much has been written in recent years about servant leadership that the very words and associated actions have been almost tuned out by those who desire to experience it.

For example, back in 1998, there were 8 titles listed under servant leadership according to Amazon.com.  By 2012, there were over 4,600 servant leadership titles and still rising.  Add to this, the change in those who are following leaders today. Many have rejected out of hand the command and control style of leadership, and are seeking the authentic mentor, who actually models and then coaches others to achieve a common mission.

In this and next month’s Leadership Lesson, I would like to share some of the obstacles that stand in the way of leading and serving and how to overcome them and develop a true servant’s heart. These obstacles are giants in the way of greatness, but there is a way to slay them and grow in the process.

The first giant is Entitlement. My generation did a real disservice to younger generations by developing as the norm the concept that everyone gets a trophy and that trying is all that matters.  We became more enamored with one’s self-esteem than one’s work ethic.  Education furthered this self-esteem movement by the theory that if a student felt really good about themselves they would in turn excel in achievement. But they found out just the opposite was true:

*Students quit when facing challenges

*Students became aggressive when criticized

*Students became demanding of the reward instead of completing the goal

Leading and serving today requires discipline and perseverance which are developed by staying the course and fixing our eyes on the goal, instead of being influenced by circumstances.  In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read:

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The second giant is Fear. To lead you must dream and dream big because today’s status quo and routine set out to reduce the dream and produce in the process “goal-less” robots of all of us.  What this does to a person is reduce them to “soulless” individuals that accept average and quit fighting for excellence.  Fear is the tool of choice and it robs a person of the ability to dream and then to take the necessary risks to achieve the dream.

John Mason, in his book The Enemy Called Average, says “All successful people are faithful in small things and there is power in taking small steps forward because it builds momentum.” What fear will do is stop a person in their tracks and paralyze them from taking further action because of what they envision as frightening possibilities in their mind.  Most people think that the greatest fear is failure but this is not true, the greatest fear is succeeding at something that really doesn’t matter!

Once again, Scripture provides for us the words of truth that can overcome fear and empower the servant leader to fulfill his/her true calling and destiny.

In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Paul reminds Timothy of both the call he has on his life and the three things that God will provide to chase fear away.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

What is true for Timothy as he was developing leadership qualities is true for you and me as well. We have the example of Jesus who showed us how to persevere and we have the Holy Spirit within us that will empower and create that sense of purpose and the necessary discipline to fulfill all that God has purposed in and through us.  Next month, we will take on two more giant obstacles that must be overcome.  Until then, may God bless you and may you continue to keep your eyes upon Him!

Blessings,

Roland F. DeRenzo, Ed.D.
Superintendent/CEO
Colorado Springs Christian Schools[/prk_accordion]

In the last edition of Leadership Lessons we looked at what it takes to be a true servant leader and some obstacles to avoid in order to be that kind of leader.  We discussed the obstacle of entitlement and fear and the corresponding behaviors associated with each.

This lesson will deal with two more obstacles in being an effective servant leader; self-absorption and power struggles.  These two obstacles are very debilitating and for many go unnoticed until it is too late to make the necessary changes.

For leaders who are self-absorbed, they can be identified by deciding their own destiny, closing themselves off from the call of God on their lives, or just being so preoccupied with themselves that it prevents them from being open to a mission larger than their own definition of possibilities.

Moses is a good example in the initial phase of his call.  He was so preoccupied with himself and the small vision of his abilities that he failed to see that God was calling him to represent Yahweh to the Egyptians not himself.  He failed to see that God had prepared him over the first 80 years of his life for this moment and the future to come.  That is the danger of self-absorption; it shrinks God down to the manageable size of the person and limits the bigger-than-life mission that God has in mind.  If you couple this with the obstacle of fear, you have a deadly and paralyzing outcome on both the person and his/her leadership.  Remember that when God works through the deficiency, He makes the person acutely aware of his dependency on Him!  Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind where we are encouraged to “trust in the Lord and not to lean on our own understanding” because it is limited and narrow, then look to God for everything and He will give direction!

The final obstacle in being a true servant leader is power struggles/criticism from those who you are leading.  The internal doubt of the leader sometimes finds outward expression by others in the form of criticism or complaint.  Without exception, all great servant leaders find themselves in circumstances where their leadership is both challenged and criticized.

Again looking at Moses when he first confronted Pharaoh and demanded the release of the Israelites, Pharaoh’s answer was emphatically NO, and then the Pharaoh ordered the bricks be made without straw.  He knew this would cause the people to criticize and complain to Moses and that is exactly what happened.  But both Pharaoh and the people miscalculated that he was picking a fight not with Moses but with God Himself.

The road to servant leadership is narrow and many begin the journey but not all finish.  What distinguishes a leader from a true servant leader is the acceptance of the call on their life and the understanding that when God calls one, He also will equip that person to fulfill the mission.  When the servant leader realizes that the battle to overcome these obstacles is one that rises or falls on obedience, then the road is set and the person is ready to lead by serving and obeying.

With the example of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have ALL we need to not only take this journey but to thrive! See you on the road!

Roland F. DeRenzo, Ed.D.

Superintendent -Colorado Springs Christian Schools

“Lessons Learned from Teaching”]A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting all the new staff that God brought to CSCS. In our time together, I shared some lessons that I had learned from teaching. Perhaps like you, I usually learn more from my mistakes than my success…and trust me I have made countless mistakes over the years. So here are some simple yet important lessons that I hope will help you build and grow this year as you serve at CSCS.
1. Hard standards, hard work, focused curriculum and a culture of achievement are ingredients for success but don’t guarantee it. You, as teachers, are the living curriculum and as Guy Dowd has proclaimed, teachers are the molder of dreams. We believe that one must be called to teach and we see this reinforced in Luke 5:10-11. Here Jesus called the first disciples who were trained in another profession, but God gave them a bigger calling and a grander vision. Yes, we strive for high standards and I know that you all work hard, but don’t ever forget that the this is God’s business and He has chosen you and equipped you to impact the lives of these students.

2. People are good at different things. This means that students learn in different ways and have talent which is sometimes hidden, and we have the opportunity to help them discover it. While academics are important, there are many traits and things that matter besides academics. According to Romans 12:5, we are told there are many parts that form one body and each gift is different and given to us to use. We are all one body and each member belongs to all of the others. What a privilege to be able to help each student discover this truth and find the unique talents and gifts that God has designed for each individual.

3. Teaching is hard work and being smart and well-educated doesn’t make one necessarily good at it. We have seen that the call is necessary and along with it we need the stamina, perseverance, and patience to be combined with the intellectual training and development that qualifies each of us to teach. This is the heart of the matter and this is what sets us apart from academic institutions that don’t know Christ or follow Him personally or professionally. This is also where the passion comes from which is the fuel that sustains each of us, and excites and inspires those watching eyes of the students.

4. Persistence counts but character matters. This means that we take the long view of life and are not discouraged by the short term setbacks that we experience or see. Persistence means that we see the potential, not just the problem in a student and will persevere in order to pray and work for the breakthrough. Character means being the person who says what they mean and lives out what they say. It is not perfection but consistency, and when this is achieved, it brings both credibility and followers.

5. We have the advantage of the Holy Spirit. If we are left on our own, then our efforts and accomplishments would be wood, hay and stubble. But with him we are tools in God’s creative hands which He uses in fashioning valuable instruments to be used in His service. This is our secret weapon and where true power comes from in order for us to fulfill that call on our lives.
Max Anderson and Sam Parker wrote a book called 212: The Extra Degree. In this story he says that water is very hot at 211 degrees, but at 212 it boils and turns to steam and powers a locomotive. This one extra degree makes all the difference. Well, that one extra degree is what the Holy Spirit provides and makes all the difference in the world. Congratulations on answering one of the noblest calls that there is, and my prayer for you is that God will fulfill every promise in you this year as you serve him and minister to the students.

Blessings,

Roland DeRenzo, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools[/prk_accordion]

This school year, as part of our administrative leadership development, our A-team and Executive staff are reading the book entitled, The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. Recently, as a leadership team, we spent a morning exploring the idea of consistency between what we say and how we behave.

In this article, I would like to share some of the ideas centered on the topic of consistency in leadership. In his new book, The Right to Lead, John Maxwell states, “What gives a man or woman the right to lead? It certainly isn’t gained by election or appointment. Having position, title, rank or degrees doesn’t qualify anyone to lead other people. And the ability doesn’t come automatically from age or experience, either. No, it would be accurate to say that no one can be given the right to lead. The right to lead can only be earned. And that takes time. It not only takes time but it takes consistency between the rhetoric and the behavior of the leader.”

This statement emphasizes that time, along with consistency, between the rhetoric and behavior of the leader is what makes for great leadership. Most organizations begin to develop this concept by differentiating themselves by two basic and fundamental questions:

1. Why do we exist? (Our purpose)

2. How do we behave?

The ability to align these two answers with behavior will determine the level of consistency that will exist in an organization. Unfortunately, this is not something that is a function of system, it is much more organic and demonstrated by the collective behavior of the people of the organization.

As I mentioned earlier, last month our leadership team discussed and agreed upon the answers to these two important questions.

In our discussion we, as a team, concluded that the ‘excellent education’ portion of the mission here at CSCS is something that we do accomplish, but it does not necessarily distinguish our school from other fine academic institutions. In further discussion, we also concluded that the last part of our mission statement, which is ‘life-long service’, is certainly our desire but we don’t have direct control over that part. What we agreed upon is the middle portion of our statement, which is ‘Christ-centeredness’ and so this is where our behavior should originate and be focused.

A whole realm of possibilities were then discussed and these main three concepts emerged:

Servant Leaders Some of the traits of a servant leader on our team should include humility, vulnerability and spiritual health. Communicative Environment Some of the behavioral traits of a communicative environment included grace, proactivity, commitment. Integrity Some of the traits of integrity include honesty and accountability.

Our team agreed that with these values and traits being practiced consistently, it will produce an environment of grace where trust is present and the development of relationships will grow stronger. We then took these broad statements and developed our team behavioral statement which says…

“We, as a leadership team, commit to behave with integrity, within a communicative environment, as servant leaders, and lovingly hold each other accountable to this behavior!”

I want to thank all of our administrative staff who participated in this first session. I am so grateful that the Lord has blessed CSCS with so many outstanding leaders who have a heart for God, and a passion for the mission of Christ-centered education here at CSCS. May the Lord Jesus bless you and your family during this season of thankfulness.

Blessings, Dr. Roland F. DeRenzo Superintendent of Schools

You have heard sportscasters talk about athletes who dig deep and make that extra effort by saying he/she has a lot of heart. You may have read stories about someone who dedicated themselves to something challenging and hearing it took a lot of heart.

There is a prevailing myth that leaders are supposed to divorce their emotions from a situation and approach things purely rationally. This reminds me of the Godfather movie where Al Pacino plays the character Michael Corleone, who says to his older brother “It is not personal Sonny, it is just business.”

Well the research indicates that the highest performing managers and leaders are the most open and caring. But what does that mean and how does that correlate to some of the most important leadership virtues?

  • There can be no integrity and honor without heart.
  • There is no commitment and conviction without heart.
  • There is no hope and faith without heart.

This type of leadership has been referred to as servant leadership and you can tell a servant leader by their consistent behavior. For example:

  • Servant leaders do not place themselves at the center; they place others there instead.
  • Servant leaders do not seek the attention of others; they give it to others.
  • Servant leaders do not focus on satisfying their own aims and desires; they look for ways to respond to the needs and interests of their constituents.
  • Servant leaders understand that the purpose of leadership is to create a legacy, not a legend.

People follow leaders that they can trust and believe in. Remember the movie Braveheart? There was William Wallace played by Mel Gibson. He led the revolt of Scotland from the tyrannical rule of the English King Edward Longshanks. Here in these two characters you have the stark contrast of great and poor leadership.

William Wallace had men follow him, give their lives for the cause because they believed in the cause and they willingly followed Wallace who was both passionate and competent. In short, he had heart and that translated in thousands joining up for the mission of freeing Scotland. On the other hand, King Edward used fear and intimidation to keep people under control. The compliance that he achieved was not done out of love or even loyalty, but out of fear. Yes, fear is a powerful tactic that some resort to in order to try and force people to do something that they don’t desire to do. But it does not create willing followers who join the cause and are willing to give their all for the mission.

Servant leaders understand that leading from the heart is not only the secret to success and effectiveness, it is scriptural. I end this lesson with a great couple of verses found in Colossians that sum up what real servant leaders who lead with heart look like, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

Blessings as you travel this leadership journey!

Roland F. DeRenzo, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools