Tag Archives: change

Ten Lessons on Stepping into Leadership… from Jimmy Fallon

I haven’t seen The Tonight Show in years, and my main late-night indulgences are Colbert and Stewart. So I haven’t watched much Jimmy Fallon. Except for “Barack Obama Slow-Jams the News,” which still cracks me up two years later. (The Prezi of the United Stezi!)

But I did catch Jimmy’s inaugural monologue on The Tonight Show this week, which led me to seek out several other clips. Here’s the monologue:

Jimmy Fallon is succeeding a giant of late-night television, and he’s entering a crowded field. At 39 years old, he’s taking a leap onto a larger stage and needs to prove himself in some ways. As I watched, I was struck by the smart stuff that was going on under the surface, whether calculated or not, and I started to relate Jimmy’s debut to other situations leaders find themselves in.  (What can I say? It’s what I do.)

Leaders sometimes find themselves following beloved leaders, some of whom are older, more experienced, and firmly entrenched in the culture. Or we may find ourselves having to step into a new role thanks to a promotion or other circumstance. How can these transitions succeed?

Here are just a few things that came to mind as I watched Jimmy take the helm. Might some of these relate to you as a leader, or in other roles you play? Some of these would apply not just to leadership, but any new creative endeavor:

jimmy-fallon-tonight-show-hed-20141. Locate yourself in history. Fallon made explicit mention of every Tonight Show host (and turned it into a joke by listing “Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno.”). This was a reverent nod to the folks who’d occupied the chair before him, but also a clear statement: my name belongs on that list now.

2. Make the role your own, but don’t go overboard. The set and format were very similar to the previous incarnation of the show, but with several small tweaks, and a few big ones. For example, Jimmy Fallon brought the show back to New York after many decades in L.A. (Carson started out there but moved the show to California ten years into his tenure.) You’ve got to find the right balance between continuity and novelty.

3. Mix self-deprecation with really knowing your stuff. As a young woman pastor wanting to be taken seriously, this was always my approach. It would do me no good to demand respect and get strident when I didn’t get it. So my approach was to be completely disarming, even self-deprecating, while still projecting extreme competence. The former takes the wind out of the sails of your detractors; the latter ensures they don’t write you off. Fallon achieved this balance with his characteristic aw-shucks modesty, coupled with running the show very well and taking his role seriously.

4. Make your family visible. This doesn’t apply to every situation, but it was sweet the way Fallon mentioned his wife and daughter and cut to his parents in the audience. Many leaders I meet (especially younger ones) don’t want a brick wall of separation between work and family. We want to be integrated. Having your family visible humanizes you. Also, knowing more about you makes people want to root for you.

5. Call in every favor you can. The sheer number of guests and cameos on the first show was dizzying! Check this out:

This isn’t just great TV, it’s great strategy. Don’t go it alone. Calling in favors builds excitement and makes you feel more comfortable too.

6. Spend it all right away. This relates a bit to the previous point. Don’t keep good ideas in reserve. Use them immediately, trusting that other ideas will come to take their place. I’m sure there will be other surprises for the rest of this week, and beyond. But taking the previous clip as an example, isn’t there something so abundant about the way that parade of celebrities came on stage, one after another? Too fun.

Speaking of which:

7. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment. Fallon sure looked like he was having a blast, didn’t he? I watched the episode mainly for curiosity, but now I want to tune in just to see what he’ll do next. (It’s one reason why I prefer Colbert to Stewart these days. Nobody looks more tickled to be doing his job than Stephen Colbert.)

8. Keep your goals modest. As leaders, we sometimes have an overinflated sense of what we can accomplish. We have to remember that we’re stepping into a system that existed before us and, we hope, will outlast us. Jimmy Fallon made his goals clear: to “take care of this show for a while” and to make his viewers laugh, to send them off to bed with a smile on their faces.

9. Be gracious with your “competition.” I put this in quotes because not every leadership role involves competition. But you will notice that Stephen Colbert made an appearance in the clip above. Fallon and Colbert are slotted opposite one another. But having them together is a statement that there is room for both of them.

10. When in doubt, bring on U2. Enough said:

Did you watch The Tonight Show? What did you think of Jimmy’s debut?

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The Vietnam Memorial: A Parable for Leadership

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The other day I heard Maya Lin talk about her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. I’ve visited the wall many times, and it’s always crowded with people, many of them deeply moved by the v-shaped black granite gash in the earth.

The memorial seems brilliant, even inevitable now, as if the memorial couldn’t have possibly looked any other way. But at the time, it was controversial, scandalous. Many Vietnam veterans fought it. They wanted something more traditional. A few concessions were made—a flag, a statue of a soldier—but through it all, Lin remained convicted and steadfast to her vision and her design.

The night before the memorial was dedicated, Lin was touring the space when a Vietnam veteran walked up to her. He was a big guy, an imposing guy, and he was livid at what he saw. He lit into her, practically pinning her to the wall with his rage, asking, How dare she do this?

As I listened to this story, I imagined what it would have been like to be Maya Lin, and to be the focus of such ire. Then I realized that of course, it has happened to me, though on a more modest scale. One time in the church I used to serve, we made a decision to change the way we served communion. It was the right decision, and we communicated our purposes the best we could. But a man left that day and made a beeline for me: How could you do this? How dare you do this? I received his rancor as non-anxiously as I could, but inside my heart sank and I was flooded with doubt.

I was expecting Lin to admit to similar feelings, but she responded differently. As she listened to the veteran, and heard all of that pain tumbling out, she thought to herself, It’s working. The wall is doing exactly what I’d hoped it would do.

Pastors, leaders, and any of us in the transformation business: take heed. When you touch people emotionally, people may lash out. But that’s not necessarily a sign to stop. It can be a sign to stand firm, or if you dare, to go deeper.

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photo credit: fensterbme via photopin cc

Makin’ Change

Yet another postcard photo from Mo-Ranch.

Lots of great nuggets of inspiration here at CREDO. Way too much (and to new) to blog, but here’s one from a fellow participant that inspired a lot of us when it comes to dissatisfaction with the way things are:

You can be angry, you can be patient, or you can be creative.

Doesn’t matter what the issue is… that is something I can work with.

What’s inspiring you today?

Friday Link Love: No More Random Than Usual Edition

This post was originally “perhaps more random than usual” but I thought better of one of my links. *I* found it amusing, but it was off-color and had the potential to offend, so away it went.

Onward:

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Rest: Breathing Space and Sabbath Work — Mihee Kim-Kort

Mihee is a fellow pastor and Chalice Press author. She was with the board of the Young Clergy Women last week and talked about how it was a Sabbath experience, even though she was working:

…a mixed-up experience of Sabbath from daily living, i.e. from the babies. It was a Sabbath-work. It was space to breathe, without being stifled and smothered by my extremely loving babies. It was a space to be, and be not only a mom but a pastor, a sister, a leader, a thinker, a writer. It was a space to receive, and give in a different way.

A space she found restful and Sabbath-y.

I love this. One of the things I do in the book is explore different ways of thinking about Sabbath other than simply “not working.” For example, one section talks about Sabbath as a time to cultivate novelty. By moving into a different creative space, we are able to find rest and renewal.

She’s also got a great link to a TED talk called “The Art of Possibility.” How can you not lean in to that?

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Lamp Made from Sawmill Waste and LEDs — Colossal

A perfect illustration of that old preaching saw about how the cracks are important because that’s where the light shines through:

Genius.

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The Greatest Films of All Time — Roger Ebert

And he would know, eh? The reasoning behind his choices is enjoyable to read, as is everything Ebert writes:

The two [new] candidates, for me, are Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and Terrene Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). Like the Herzog, the Kubrick and the Coppola, they are films of almost foolhardy ambition. Like many of the films on my list, they were directed by the artist who wrote them. Like several of them, it attempts no less than to tell the story of an entire life.

In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman does this with one of the most audacious sets ever constructed: An ever-expanding series of boxes or compartments within which the protagonist attempts to deal with the categories of his life. The film has the insight that we all deal with life in separate segments, defined by choice or compulsion, desire or fear, past or present. It is no less than a film about life.

In “The Tree of Life,” Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family.

I could choose either film. I will choose “The Tree of Life” because it is more affirmative and hopeful. I realize that isn’t a defensible reasons for choosing one film over the other, but it is my reason, and making this list is essentially impossible, anyway.

Have you seen Tree of Life? We’ve had it sitting on our coffee table from Netflix for oh, two months or so. I will watch it!

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Panoramic Picture from Mars — NASA

Click on the link above for a 360-degree view of the Red Planet. Stunning, although I do love our pretty blue one.

(Note that this is NOT from Curiosity. In fact this may not even be a new picture. But it was new to me—maybe it’s new for you too.)

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Why Great Ideas Get Rejected — 99U

Creativity requires an element of novelty, but novelty provokes uncertainty:

We now know that regardless of how open-minded people are, or claim to be, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. This isn’t merely a preference for the familiar or a desire to maintain the status quo. Most of us sincerely claim that we want the positive changes creativity provides. What the bias affects is our ability to recognize the creative ideas that we claim we desire. Thus, when you’re pitching your creative idea, it may not be the idea itself that is being rejected. The more likely culprit could be the uncertainty your audience is feeling, which in turn is overriding their ability to recognize the idea as truly novel and useful.

If the implicit bias against creativity is triggered by uncertainty, then crafting your pitch to maximize certainty should improve the odds of the idea being accepted. You can do this in a variety of ways…

Members of the NEXT Church and other change agents: be advised.

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Pride Parade in Uganda — Advocate

This came across my Facebook feed last night. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, that is some stunning bravery right there.

Gorgeous.

Go in peace. Live fearless.

What To Expect… Grandparents’ Edition

My video on “What to Expect When Your Church is Expecting” has hit 4,000 views/pages and counting. I’m humbled and honored by the attention.

It also makes me cringe since I hate watching myself on video.

A few folks have countered that there are places in which the church is not pregnant, but really and truly dying. I agree. One person rightly pointed out that the symptoms for pregnancy that I named are not unlike the symptoms of a cancer patient. Also true. As I’ve said, this video/post offers a metaphor. To the extent that the metaphor helps, great. If it gets in the way of the hard work of dying that must take place in many specific places, disregard.

May my words be faithful or may they slip harmlessly away.

The inimitable Jan Edmiston riffed on the metaphor in a wonderful way today. The church is graying. So what is our responsibility as grandparents to this new church that is coming into being?

It occurs to me that those in my and older generations need to keep something in the forefront of our minds as the church we love is pregnant:

The Next Church Will Not Be Our Baby.

We will have great ideas for how to care for it and treasure it.  We might even be able to help pay for its nurture and its future.  But it’s not our baby.

 This is not to say we will not be ideal grandparents.  But it’s possible that we could overstep our bounds.  We could chuckle at the disciplines the younger generations have chosen to follow. We might want to talk incessantly about the way we did it.  But let’s not.

She ends by saying that the church of the future will be a lot browner than it is now. That’s also true. And yet the Presbyterian Church is very white. So what’s going on there? Adoption is another metaphor that might help us. I wonder if there’s someone out there that might riff on that in some creative ways. Susan? Alex?

Let’s all keep dreaming and spinning generative metaphors.