Humility, the Mark of An Excellent Leader

ramon rochaBy Ramon Rocha

As leaders, pride can get into our heads especially when we achieve victories and successes in our projects. Accolades can fuel our fire of self-sufficiency, of not needing help from God. An excellent leader is one who has a servant attitude and is humble and teachable.

Listening and openness to comments, advice, correction and even criticism requires humility. Pride is subtle. It’s okay to rejoice and celebrate, but we have to remember to defer to the Lord, who is a jealous God.

How do you handle criticism? Ask yourself, “Is there truth to the criticism?” Examine the validity of the comment. If it is correct, even to the slightest degree, ask forgiveness if you’ve made a mistake. Change your ways. Humbly admit errors, do what is required and then move on.

If the criticism is not true, then either correct the rumor or simply dismiss the critical comment with a clear conscience and submit the issue to God.

“We spend so much time and expend so much energy trying to gain a sense of worth from others…ultimately, only God’s opinion of us matters,” wrote theologian Stanley J. Grenz.

Excellent leaders intentionally train people to take over someday. Does your company have a conscious program to develop talents and equip those who will lead after you’re gone? Succession planning is an exercise in developing humility and our rightful place in God’s economy. If you feel invincible and irreplaceable, wake yourself up before God cuts you off.

I remember sending nearly every manager of OMF Literature to trainings either locally or overseas. When David C Cook was offering 10-day courses in Colorado Springs, I sent delegates to learn in editorial, finance, sales and marketing. We sent multiple staff to the two LittWorld international publishing conferences in the Philippines. We also invited board members or their qualified colleagues to lead in-house trainings.

Another measure of humility and teachability is a willingness to be surrounded by people smarter than you. The marketing guy whom I hired back in 2001 is now the CEO of OMF Literature in Manila. When I saw how smart he was emceeing an event for us with Philip Yancy, I told our marketing manager to offer him a job. This microbiology major is now the CEO! He is now taking the company to greater heights, growing from strength to strength.

With humility comes the realization that the company or the department you are heading is not yours. It is the Lord’s. We leaders are accountable to the Real Owner. In fact, we have to report regularly to him on how the company is doing, how are we managing the cash, the inventory, how are we leading and managing the staff, yes, even knowing what’s happening with our respective staff member’s families.

Jesus is our primary example of humility and servant-leadership. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2 that our union with Christ should be reflected in our general attitude and in how we relate with others. Basically, we must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Ramon Rocha is the director of publisher development at MAI. This post is an excerpt from his talk, “Seven Marks of an Excellent Leader in Christian Publishing,” given at MAI’s European Forum, England, April 8, 2015.

Come to LittWorld 2015, the only international Christian publishing conference of141124LittWorldPos its kind. Join us in Singapore this November 1 to 6, alongside more than 200 professionals from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America and the Middle East. All Christian writers, editors, graphic designers, publishers and booksellers are welcome. Gain intensive training on strategic publishing-related topics. Learn more now.

LittWorld leads to published book

By Yahya Djuanda, Indonesia

The LittWorld 2012 conference in Kenya had a really big impact on me, especially on my writing goals. I also learned much from other participants about how committed they are in writing with Christian values.

I met four people who really reignited my writing passion. They were from d1_014 indonesian greeting AfricanMongolia, China, Egypt and India. Their countries are similar to mine, Indonesia, where Christianity is a minority religion. They live their writing careers as a small light sparkling in the darkness of the country. They write a lot and help people without using Christian jargon. They are very inspiring to me. After Kenya, I continued to email with them.

Back in Indonesia, the conference experiences and inspirations slowly but surely made me stronger and more confident in my writing goals. I must be a light for my country through my writing. During my service as an editor at Berkat Christian magazine, I started to write a general book about fathering and a husband’s calling and responsibility. By “general book” I mean not an explicitly Christian book.

Why am I writing the book? Today in Indonesia there are some 220,000 legal divorces per year as noted in the Religion Office, or about 700 per day! These happen for various reasons, mostly disharmony, followed by economic reasons and domestic violence, and divorce occurs among young couples with low education.

My wife, a Sunday school teacher, also mentioned how many of her kids’ parents have problems. She was visiting kids’ houses to get to know the families deeper, and often found that the parents had problems in their marriage, such as living separately, not talking to each other, and domestic violence, but they were still in a legal marriage. In most of the families’ cases, the cause was the husband.

These cases will negatively impact soul development, mental strength and the religious lives of the kids. It will affect the kids’ personalities and characters, and impact his/her own future family. I heard a call in my heart to write about the issue.

I was a participant of a book writing camp in November (4 days and 3 nights, a year after the Kenya meeting), and during the camp I wrote the wholeYahya-book-cover-An draft of my first book. The camp was supervised by Edy Zaqeus, a Catholic best-selling author, ghost writer and writer coach.

My book title is: Andakah suami keren itu? (Are You A Cool Husband?). The book is about a husband’s calling and his responsibility as the head of family. The draft is finished, endorsements are there, and the quotes and jokes are in place.

We congratulate Yahya! After he wrote this article, one of Indonesia’s large general publishing houses released his book in October 2014. It’s now available on Amazon.

141124LittWorldPosHave you considered attending LittWorld 2015? Join us in Singapore, November 1 to 6. Don’t miss our triennial conference for Christian writers, editors and publishing staff from around the world. Invest in your publishing ministry and the readers you serve. You will gain fresh skills, vision and networks and become part of the global LittWorld “family.” Register today.

Time Management, Life Balance and Avoiding Burnout

SooInn Tan 2015By Soo-Inn Tan, Malaysia/Singapore

In his book Working the Angles, Eugene Peterson points out the following:

The Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went four hundred years without a vacation (Deuteronomy 5:15). Never a day off. The consequence: they were no longer considered persons but slaves. Hands. Work units. Not persons created in the image of God but equipment for making bricks and building pyramids.

Keeping the Sabbath was therefore both blessing and sign. (See Deuteronomy 5: 12-15.) The people of God kept one day in seven free of their usual productive activity because they needed it. The fact that they could keep it was also a sign that they were no longer slaves. They were no longer under the cruel rule of Pharaoh and Egypt. They were now free, free under God.

As a people under the care of a loving God, they could afford to work when it was time to work, rest when it was time to rest. Sabbath-keeping was an eloquent statement of their status as God’s people and the reality of the sovereign, benevolent nature of God.

When I look at the frenzied hectic lifestyles of most Christians today, we seem to resemble slaves more than free people. We may no longer be in bondage to Pharaoh, but we are still slaves, slaves to fear, pride, greed, materialism, consumerism, etc. Like those who do not know God, we too push ourselves to work long hours, doing with as little rest as possible.

Christians in vocational ministry are no different. In fact because they are conscious that they are doing “God’s work” they are even less inclined to keep the divine work-Sabbath rhythm. As a result many of our best people burn out or become susceptible to all sorts of spiritual and emotional collapse.

I invite you to attend my webinar on Wednesday, April 22, at 8 a.m. CST, when we will address this problem head on–first by acknowledging the frantic pace of modern life, and then by looking at some key biblical and practical ways we can structure our lives so that we can continue to work hard healthily.

Register online now for MAI’s free webinar with Pastor Soo-Inn Tan, “Time Management, Life Balance, and Avoiding Burnout”

Soo-Inn Tan of Malaysia/Singapore is a founding director of Graceworks, a training and publishing consultancy committed to promoting spiritual friendship in church and society. Soo-Inn is committed to connecting the Word of God to the struggles of daily life through teaching, mentoring and writing.

Growing Intimacy with God

ramon rochaBy Ramon Rocha

A growing intimacy with God is essential for an excellent Christian leader. Our relationship with God, our spiritual maturity, or lack thereof, is reflected in our leadership—our actions and our decision-making. Our spirituality is evident in how we relate with staff and customers, and even in the kind and quality of books we publish.

How are you growing in your spiritual life? One critical component of a growing relationship with our Heavenly Father is a vibrant and regular personal devotion time, like Moses had with God. They met for intimate exchanges in the “tent of meeting” (Exodus 33). There “the LORD used to speak to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks to his friend” (v. 11).

Do you have an equivalent “tent of meeting”?

When I worked as CEO of OMF Literature in Manila, one of my duties as a father was to drive each of my four children to school each morning. I had to be early enough to beat the notorious Manila morning rush hour traffic, arriving at my office around 7:30 to 7:45 a.m. I closed my door and enjoyed an uninterrupted 30 to 45 minutes of reading the Bible, meditating on his word and praying before most staff arrived.

If a regular quiet time is essential to a “rank and file” follower of Christ, how much more for someone who leads other Jesus followers in a Christian organization?

Get to know God and spend time with him. The more you worship him, love him, obey him, experience him, his attributes and character, the more you become like him. And your face will have a radiant glow like that of Moses’ coming out of the tent of meeting (Exodus 34:34-5).

Ramon Rocha is the director of publisher development at MAI. This post is an excerpt from his talk, “Seven Marks of an Excellent Leader in Christian Publishing,” given at MAI’s European Forum, England, April 8, 2015.

A First Sci-Fi Novel for Young Adults

Balazs ZagoniLast year Balázs Zágoni of Koinonia publishing house in Romania was awarded MAI’s David Alexander Author Fund to complete his first science fiction novel for young adults. Until now Balázs has published nine children’s books, but he has always wanted to be a novelist. Sphere, his working title, describes a futuristic era of food and fuel shortages and severe climate change.

Vic, a 13-year old boy, lives with his father in a mushroom colony. He encounters a strange transparent being, a sphere, who saves his life and with whom he can communicate telepathically. Vic struggles to choose between the warnings of his family and the tempting benefits associated with his unique friendship. We interviewed Balázs about his journey writing sci-fi:

What have you found most challenging in writing science fiction?
I discovered after my second draft that a science-fiction novel needs similar research to a historic novel. Well, you cannot read the history behind a sci-fi novel—you have to write it! So I started to write the last 30 years in the history of this city and its colonies. Plus the back stories of Vic’s parents. I needed to write dozens of pages, even if they don’t go directly into the novel. That hopefully will create a much sharper picture of this imaginary world.

What lessons do you want young adults to take away?
I do not want to teach any kind of lessons! Sometimes even for me it is a question where the story goes. What interests me is situations in which we are tempted to convince ourselves that we are on the right track, while in fact we are not.

Vic has several intense inner dialogues during moments in which he has to make tough decisions. He must choose between his family’s seasoned advice and his own limited, personal experience. Which is reliable? Is the sphere a sort of friend and helper, a kind of savior, or a cunning enemy trying to seduce and enslave him?

What is your favorite science fiction book?
Recently I enjoyed very much Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but I enjoyed and learned a lot from Stephen Lawhead’s Bright Empire series too. Though they are not sci-fi, the Harry Potter books had a great impact on me also.

How have your cultural roots influenced your writing?
I grew up in Communist Romania until I was 13. Then the Iron Curtain fell. And I became a Christian when I was 19. These two things influenced me a lot. I am also an ethnic Hungarian living in Romania. So I am sensitive to issues where there is a majority and a minority, or where there are different cultures.

I was raised by my writer and journalist parents telling me, “As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being.” I speak three languages fluently. There is always another point of view, which seems very true for the other person’s life and cultural background.

When do you hope to have the book complete?
My son enjoyed it and gave the draft to two other friends. He keeps encouraging me and asking when it will be ready. I hope to have the final draft finished this year.

<Learn how Balázs started writing in our interview, “An Accidental Children’s Writer