Thursday, 26 January 2012

Shackleton on Leadership - being the fellow other fellows follow!

On the 90th anniversary of Shackleton’s death at the start of January I blogged a little taster of his story – it can be summed up by the words, ‘glorious failure’.
However, as an inspirational leader of men, Shackleton was a success in every way. His leadership methods, unorthodox and frowned upon in his day, were probably the difference between life and death for most of his men.

Over the last week or so I’ve been reading Shackleton’s Way – Leadership Lessons from the Great Arctic Explorer by Margot Morrell . This interesting account, gives some of Shackleton’s own thoughts on leadership. If you know anything of his incredible adventures, these quotes will leave you in awe of his leadership capacity and drawn into the personal battles and unceasing daily pressures which lay behind the legend:

‘There are lots of good things in the world, but I’m not sure that comradeship is not the best of them all – to know that you can do something big for another chap.’

‘Optimism is true moral courage.’

‘Leadership is a fine thing, but it has it’s penalties. And the greatest penalty is lonliness.’

‘A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground.’

‘The loyalty of your men is a sacred trust you carry. It is something which must never be betrayed, something you must live up to.’

‘I have often marvelled at the thin line which separates success from failure.’

‘You often have to hide from them not only the truth, but your feelings about the truth. You may know that the facts are dead against you, but you mustn’t say so.’

‘If you’re a leader, a fellow that other fellows look to, you’ve got to keep going.’

To use the language of Shackleton – Maybe you are the kind of fellow who aspires to lead other chaps in a great adventures? If so, you could do a lot worse than to get yourself a copy of his biography or Morrell’s book and learn some lessons from the great man himself.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Mega cities, global trends and a wake up call!

In the year 1800 when we were at the height of our industrial revolution in England, only 3% of the world's population lived in cities. By the year 2100 this is expected to have rocketed to 90%
Today, the Economist reports that China's city dwellers now outnumber it's rural residents. Of China's 1.35 billion people, 51.3% lived in urban areas by the end of 2011. What happened for us in Europe relatively slowly, is now exploding in the developing world at an unprecedented pace.

The figures in last week's blog show that by 2050 all of the world's top 10 most populous cities will be in Asia or Africa. Shanghai and Tokyo are the only current large cities which will feature on the list that we would call in any way developed. These new mega cities promise to be sprawling masses of low cost housing, close to high risk industry. Massive poverty colliding with a huge migration of people groups. Previously separate cultures and religions living in close proximity but splendidly isolated. Again, much like our own revolution, but at warp speed!

If cities define culture as most commentators assume, then we should get ready for a massive shift away from western, American/European thought and culture. Our ways, our words, our languages could become increasingly irrelevant as the cultural and financial centres of the world rapidly migrate south and eastwards. Maybe a post Obama USA will come to accept a new, secondary role in world affairs as they discover what the post colonial European powers have found over the last 50 years? Again, the shift from European to American supremacy took 300 years. Now it will move south in a mere generation.

But it's not all about a shift in business, culture and politics. Away from the glass and chrome skyscrapers in these new economic centres, poverty will be off the scale. It is estimated that 23% of the global poor will live in mega slums, around mega cities by 2050, that is somewhere around 2 billion people.

In such conditions, disease will spread more readily and rapidly than ever before. The Hollywood 'outbreak' style disaster movies could be right. The potential is there for resistant viruses to multiply like the plagues of medieval Europe, but now on a global scale. New diseases like HIV, SARS, Ebola, Bird Flu will bring chaos in these dense urban conditions. More so where climate change, dwindling natural energy resources and poor government make cohesive society and social care almost impossible.

Into this bleak picture, what hope is there for the church? Weren't we supposed to be the hope of all the world? Is this really all that the post christian generation has to look forward to?
In the first instance, complacent churches need to wake up and realise that already the old world order does not exist. It is time now to change our thinking and strategies for these new global challenges, rather than believing the way we have always done things will connect meaningfully with the emerging world culture.


There is room for hope and confidence when we look back.
Christians have long been able to adapt and evolve to reach the urban poor. We have been at the forefront of learning new linguistic and cultural ways in the past which have enabled us to communicate the gospel with relevance. The church was always the first to care for the sick, the dying, the marginalised. We pioneered in health care long before governments saw it as their responsibility. It is the believing church which has attempted to deal with the root causes of disease and poverty, working for heart change in the man, rather than simply adjusting his environment.

If these future trends are anywhere near correct, the church which emerges now, out of this generation, will need to be taught to be as radical and dynamic as the very first church which took the world by storm. The needs of the planet may be greater than ever, they will need a saviour more than ever before. How much more will they need a vibrant church which will not only tell them, but share with them in their suffering and still show them Christ?

Stats taken from The Future of the Global Church - Patrick Johnstone

Friday, 13 January 2012

The rise of the mega-city & the demise of the west.

I’ve been doing some thinking and study about the growing urbanisation of the world, and considering some of the changes and trends that will emerge over the next few decades. One of the most interesting things however is just the stand alone stats for the numbers in our emerging mega cities.

Look at these changes:

Top 10 Cities in 2000
1/ Tokyo, Japan 28m
2/Mexico City, Mexico 18m
3/ Mumbai, India, 18m
4/ Sao Paulo, Brazil 17m
5/ New York, USA 17m
6/ Shanghai, China 14m
7/ Lagos, Nigeria 13m
8/ Los Angeles, USA 13m
9/ Kolkata, India 13m
10/ Buenos Aires, Arg 12m

Top 10 Cities in 2025
1/ Mumbai, India 30m
2/ Lagos, Nigeria 30m
3/ Tokyo, Japan 29m
4/ Karachi, Pakistan 25m
5/ Dhaka, Bangladesh 24m
6/ Kolkata, India 21m
7/ Mexico City, Mexico 21m
8/ Sao Paulo, Brazil 21m
9/ Shanghai, China 21m

Top 10 Cities in 2050
1/ Lagos, Nigeria 64m
2/ Mumbai, India 50m
3/ Karachi, Pakistan 50m
4/ Dhaka, Bangladesh 49m
5/ Kolkata, India 34m
6/ Kinshasa, Congo DR 34m
7/ Delhi, India 33m
8/ Shanghai, China 30m
9/ Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 30m
10/ Tokyo, Japan 30m

These numbers are stunning, and the change is going to be felt most in the West, particularly Europe and America as our influence in the world diminishes. I’ll blog some implications next week that arise out of these expected growth figures. But the shift from north to south in global terms, and particularly the rise of India, China and the African mega cities is striking!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Shackleton, glorious failure & a life well lived!

On this day in 1922 one of my heroes died. Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, polar explorer and perhaps the last of the breed of boys own explorers to emerge from the late Victorian period.
His most famous exploits live on in legend, but he actually failed to reach his goal on every expedition he set out on. But what glorious failure, what magnificent near misses! ‘I love the fight and when things are easy I hate it’ he once wrote in a letter home to his wife Emily.

In 1902, serving on an expedition to the South Pole with Scott, he was sent ahead on a three man team, which finally only turned back 460 miles from the Pole, in the kind of temperatures that no man on earth was equipped to experience at the time.

In 1908 Shackleton tried again, this time at the head of his own private expedition, having begged and borrowed sponsorship in ever creative ways. Always a great team leader, Shackleton put his fellow men above his personal glory, turning back this time an agonising 97 miles short of the Pole. He could have pressed on, but it would have meant certain death for his colleagues. This failed attempt was the one for which he was knighted upon his return.

Perhaps the greatest story came about from the greatest failure of the lot. The 1914-16 expedition on the Endurance, where Shackleton lost his ship to the ice before they even reached Antarctica. His heroism though was in the way he intervened to save his entire crew during an amazing two year retreat.
Margot Morrell writes of this time. ‘It was a tale so amazing you’ll wonder why the Endurance saga hasn’t become a part of every school age child’s reading.’

This true explorer, great leader of men, scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and sailor was so full of hope that he and his men always felt as though they had a chance. Typically, he died having another go. On his ship in South Georgia in January 1922.
Livingstone had his heart buried in Africa. Emily, Shackleton’s long suffering wife, sent word that his remains were to be buried in South Georgia. The ships doctors , Macklin, wrote these words in his diary. "I think this is as "the Boss" would have had it himself, standing lonely in an island far from civilisation, surrounded by stormy tempestuous seas, & in the vicinity of one of his greatest exploits."

In our day when heroes come and go with the rise and fall of popular culture, this man is to be rightly saluted as a true hero, one who spent himself, wasted his life on a glorious pursuit after greatness!