In this ongoing series of conversations with gifted leaders I am exploring #LeadershipFlow in action. What is it? How does it help leaders navigate change and inspire others to reach for more?
I couldn’t wait to explore #LeadershipFlow with Dalton Jantzen. He is one of those rare, larger-than-life people who shows up with mega-watt energy, deeply held profound beliefs, and pure authenticity. Watching him you can see he is on a mission. And in his case he operates a ministry that coaches other ministries on how to effectively operate internationally to better spread the word of Jesus. You may not be active with a faith – but every great leader I’ve met is driven by a passion about something they deeply care about. Dalton is just that.
I first met Dalton about 15 years ago when we both worked at DeLaPorte and Associates and shared space in one of those office cubicles. His feeling was that I was a little too loud and rambunctious on my side of the cubicle – and I didn’t stay on my side. Over time we developed a mutual respect, but I really started to understand Dalton when I had been selected to teach a class, and he was assigned to help me prepare. Normally, I would prep by running down the hall to a compadre of mine who thought like I did, and acted like I did. He’d give me the 10-minute low down and then I’d wing teaching the whole way. But for this one, I was told that Dalton was going to teach me how to facilitate the class correctly and he and I were going to spend the whole day doing it. At first I thought “Oh boy, what am I gonna do for 8 hours?” But the conversation – and it was really a conversation for 8 hours – was deep, deep, enjoyable, learning. Dalton just had a passion for the whole process. Naturally, when I actually taught the class I was much more prepared than I had ever been. Questions Dalton had said would likely arise arose, and I had answers for them.
So in illustrating #LeadershipFlow through the experience of Dalton Jantzen, let’s start with a word that quickly comes to mind – authentic.
Authenticity is a key component of Self Mastery, which is a foundational tenant of #LeadershipFlow. Dalton is authentically Dalton. When you are with him what you get is love, sincerity, and an easy connection. He lives his life in a manner that is aligned with what he professes and preaches, which happen to be Christian beliefs. He models every day the beliefs he talks about, which is a huge aspect of Self Mastery.
Croft: Why do you think you are doing what you are doing?
Dalton: I was designed for this. This is where I belong; this is what I need to be doing. I believe in many, many cases people are not actually fulfilling what they are called to do. I would come at it from that direction.
So for me this is really both attentive self-mastery and creating culture. He sees that by following our calling we cultivate self-mastery and in the process we can create a culture. You, yourself become the culture. I thought that was very powerful.
Croft: People have to find that calling in order to be their authentic selves? How does that impact leadership for you?
Dalton: As you know, a lot of who I am is wrapped up in the spiritual side of life. I like to believe that my relationship with the Lord Jesus is the thing that keeps me on task and alert to needs and to caring. I know that that’s a faith-based orientation and a lot of people say, “well I don’t have that.” It is not that people can’t do great things without that but that’s where my great challenges or accomplishments come from.
Croft: So it’s in the challenges that the Lord puts in front of you so to speak?
Croft: What practices do you do on a daily or regular basis to be ready to face those challenges?
Dalton: As a Christian I have a prayer practice that is pretty much a conversation with God. I ask him to help me sort out what is important, and how I can be directed by Him. Another thing I try to do is to regularly read the Bible – I try to read through it every year. And I regularly get together with people of like faith. It is helpful to have a spouse or partner, somebody who shares a similar vision and helps motivate you when you are down. My wife Vicki is that for me. When you feel lost or disassociated from the things that really count, prayer and meditation will often help. The fact is that you can’t really know what your mission is until you know who you are. When you talk to a God who actually lives in the present, he’s ever-present, and for Him the future is part of right now. You can ask him, Lord what’s the way that I could be in the best synchronization with what you’re doing? He can give you information about that. So that’s what I go for.
Croft: In our visioning sessions I see people try to remove themselves, their actions from the process. They’ll talk growth and markets but avoid the deeper question – how do I want be now and in the future – am I going to be grounded, sticking to my principles, my tenants, and my way of being? And that’s something that I hear with you.
Dalton: Yes, isn’t your identity, who you are, way bigger than what can you do, or what you will do business wise? You can’t control the market. You can’t say I will be in the top 10 on this date, and make that happen. A lot of people set goals to do exactly that, but they don’t necessarily use the right means to get to their goals.
Croft: I hear that you feel your ministry is not necessarily going to change the entire world and accomplish xyz. It is more that you are going to show up as present, caring, loving, Disciples of Christ right off.
Dalton: I’ve got to show up doing the things that God is about. A guy named Henry Blackaby wrote a book called Experiencing God, what he said was, “find out what God is doing and join him.” So we travel to remote places in other countries with our Back 40 Ministry and provide training and mentorship. But I want to get back to this concept that we are a complete being, spirit, soul, and body. And if you’ve got one of those areas in your life that’s lacking; that you are realize is that we’re three parts and if I’m not dealing with each of those parts of my life I’m going to be imbalanced and less effective when I talk to people – they won’t hear a complete message from a whole person.
Croft: As I like to say, leadership is the authority granted to an individual by their followers. And so you can’t be a leader unless your followers say you’re a leader. Looking at our shared DeLaPorte years, there were people there who I don’t think really wanted to be there. I see this a lot when people I coach, I’ll ask them, what do you want to do? They’ll under breath say, well, what I really want to do is a,b,c. When I think about Dalton I can’t imagine you doing anything else.
Dalton: Listen; I was designed for this. And when I get in a room with a bunch people and we do Strategic Planning to the Highest Power it’s based on the concept is that the Holy Spirit’s going to guide us through the strategic planning process. I get to join Him as a facilitator, but its His plan we are going for. That is my element. That is where I belong.
Croft: It’s not about the trophies or the sales medals or whatever. In many organizations I’ve found people who just love their job – even jobs most others would find difficult and dirty. And I’ve met people who say, ”It’s a job.” The breakdown to me is when they say, well, it’s a job. Well, what do you want to do? This isn’t a dress rehearsal.
Croft: So when you think of the future where do you see this going? Where is your vision now of what you’re creating with your wife, Vicki?
Dalton: The vision of the ministry is; we see a generation of believers fully equipped to challenge their culture without restraint, and make common Christian complacency obsolete. If I look at that down the road, we’re beginning to turn our focus to the question – how do we help people who are presently doing things that they feel are valuable? Whether that’s ministry or non-profit work or NGO’s or making money and funneling that into social good of some kind. You do not have to be a preacher or a non-profit ministry guy in order to do things that count. If you’re really good at business and you try becoming a preacher in order to serve God, you just wasted what God gave you. So what we see is preparing an existing generation of leaders to raise up a next generation of leaders who are going to surpass them.
I marveled at the clarity of that statement and how Dalton has embodied it. And many Leaders in flow share his legacy goal that when he is gone he leaves people better equipped to face a challenging world.
Dalton: I remember a fella who was my mentor when I was a very young guy, when I went to the jungle. He said, ”Dalton I want you to learn to do what you do in Colombia so well that you can teach other people to do it, and then they’ll do it better than you, and replace you–and you will work yourself out of a job!” And at age 20 that wasn’t a very exciting proposition because I wanted my name in lights. But what I found is that over time that it is a tremendous principle of life, to teach people to do what you do so well that they can exceed you. It sets you free, and forever you will be called to do other things that are of importance. Maybe equal, greater, or less than, but that’s that journey. Vicki and I both say we’re going to die with our boots on. I’ve said I’m not going to retire, I’m going to retread, rotate and keep rolling. I don’t envision retirement. I don’t see that as a godly principle. I think that’s a way of life that those of us who live in a “first world countries” can envision but I don’t think it’s a reality.
And so his vision is that he wants to leave behind enough power and knowledge that when he’s gone the people he’s taught can do what he does even better. He and Vicky want to keep working and growing to the end, to make change in the lives of people they touch.
Croft: You led into the third piece that I see in LeadershipFlow – the role of a leader is to create more leaders. It takes a certain level of leadership where you can let go of your ego. It’s not about me; it’s about sharing it and dispersing it. So share with me your thoughts on cultivating other leaders and teams.
Dalton: Many people think of legacy in terms of a library or opera house, or people set up foundations or things like that. Vicki and I have defined legacy a little differently. We say legacy is the change in the lives of the people who were affected by us. So legacy isn’t what I do, rather it’s actually the result of who of I am. And if lives are changed in a positive fashion then those people will be different. I don’t have any urgency to get Heaven but when the scroll of our life is rolled up and accounts are taken I look forward to meeting people whose lives were changed because of how I lived. Their families, their kids, to seeing what’s different in history because of who I was.
Croft: I’d like your thoughts on how a leader creates a culture and expands capacity. They add to it, change behaviors, and maybe the way of doing business?
Dalton: What changes culture is you realize that there is something specific to which you are called and uses your talents. Again, I have a faith perspective on this. Those who have faith feel, to use a Biblical term, anointed. What makes me better than somebody else at what I do is not me–, I am anointed by God because he gave me a gift to serve others exceptionally–beyond my normal capacity. And I believe in many cases people are not actually fulfilling what they’re called to–so I would come at this whole concept of leadership flow from a different direction. I would say that when we want to fulfill our calling in God it empowers us to do beyond what we are capable of. When I work with groups on a strategic plan I don’t say ‘you this’ and ‘you that,’ I very quickly my language morphs into “we.” And the reality is if they are doing ministry I’m going to be connected to them whether they like it or not because I’m helping birth something with them. It’s like being a midwife. You get to help bring to birth something that is inside of them and they’re not aware that it is greater than them or any of their parts.
Croft: Any last thoughts about the definition of flow?
Dalton: I played a trombone many yard ago, and I’ve only played a little bit of jazz but one of the things that jazz reflects is: very talented people submitting to other very talented people. When it’s their moment to shine individually in a riff they do it but it’s not their intent to shine all the time. And I think in leadership flow you have to show up with a set of talents that others may not have brought but it’s really not about you. It’s really about the group.
Croft: What we call self-mastery is a continuum not a goal, right? We are always expanding our capacity.
Dalton: Oh yes, a process with no end, and always new priorities. I’ve become aware over the last few years of the fact I’ve got to do a better job of taking care of my person, my human body, the temple that I carry this spirit around in. It’s time for exercise and healthy eating.
Croft: Thanks, Dalton. There is an element of self-mastery that we can all take a look at and add to our vision for the future. Time to take off my boots and put on the running shoes.