December 18, 2014

The Leadership Lesson Hidden in a Classic Christmas Carol

This Christmas season, hopefully you can enjoy singing carols with no thought other than the simply enjoying these wonderful songs.

But if you simply can’t turn your leadership radar off for even a moment, you’ll no doubt spot timeless leadership truths in many classic carols.

None more so, than in Good King Wenceslas.

Though the song likely contains as much myth as it does fact, it is widely regarded as being based on a real person, and the events depicted in the song are a reflection of the “good King’s” character.

As such, the carol serves as a timely seasonal reminder of one of the highest callings of leadership; that of compassion.

According to the carol, Wenceslas observed a poor man gathering firewood on a bitterly cold winter night. Moved with compassion, the king asked his page to accompany him in bringing food and drink out to the man.

As they journeyed out, the night became too cold even for the page, at which point the King ensured that the page walk behind him, so that the page would be protected from the biting wind.

If this classic carol accomplished nothing more than to fill you will the yuletide spirit, it has done its job.

But don’t be afraid to delve into the leadership qualities it espouses too.

For here you’ll find here a leader who:

  • Was aware of needs around him
  • Was quick to move to action
  • Could build a team
  • Would not ask someone to do anything he wasn’t willing to do
  • Was a servant leader
  • Was driven to meet the needs of those he leads

(If you haven’t sung this carol for a few years, you can find the lyrics here.)

So at your next Christmas gathering, enjoy all that the season has to offer. And when the carols are being sung, join in with full gusto.

And should Good King Wenceslas be included, take a moment to reflect on the leadership principles it contains.

It could enrich both your Christmas and your leadership.

How Leaders Invest Their Time to Create Momentum

Updated from July 13, 2012 post

How important is the connection between where you invest your time, and the velocity of forward momentum?

It’s everything.

Image via

Whether you’re leading a small team, a department, or the entire organization, where you choose to invest your time will have a direct bearing on the likelihood that things will surge ahead.

Here’s what it looks like in practical terms.

Your energy as a leader can be invested in any one of three “time accounts”; the “history account”, the “present account” and the “future account”. All three are important, and you as a leader need to spend some time investing in each of these.

The key to forward momentum, though, is in knowing how much of your energy to invest in each of these accounts.

Here is a basic investment guide.

The History Account

Activity in this account includes such practices as staff reviews, preparing or analyzing reports, and looking at last quarter’s financials.

Each of these activities has a place in the life of the leader, but in any given week aim to spend no more than 10% of your time here.

The Present Account

Another word for this account is “operations”. This includes all of your organization’s ongoing or immediate activities including most administrative functions.

As a leader you must invest some time here, but aim to invest no more than 40% of your time in the Present Account.

The Future Account

This is where momentum is driven. This is where vision happens. This is where dreams are birthed and nurtured.

Activities here include developing future leaders, strategic planning and long-term goal setting.

Effective leaders know they must invest their best time to this account.

Aim to invest no less than 50% of your time here.

Of course, these time suggestions are averages.

There are seasons in your year when you’ll invest more time in the History Account (such as year-end, or when preparing for an annual members meeting) as well as the Present Account (such as when conducting an off-site staff retreat).

But these seasonal variations notwithstanding, use these time parameters to guide your energy investment strategy.

The momentum dividends can be huge.

From which account do you generate the most momentum?


How Leaders Can Master the Details & Keep the Big Picture

Updated from from May 30, 2014 post

“I’m not into the details- I’m a big picture thinker.” 

If you’ve ever said that in your leadership, here’s what you need to know; At the end of the day, that “big picture” you’re looking at is one made up of hundreds or thousands of details. And as a leader you need to know what they are.

Ultimately, it’s the details that provide you with the information you need to make big picture decisions.

You can fake it for a while, but in the end your lack of attention to the details will make it impossible to provide effective leadership.

So what can you do about it, if you’re not a details person?

Well, speaking as someone for whom detail work doesn’t come naturally, here are three vital ways I’ve learned to master the details that enable you to provide big picture leadership.

1.  Develop a disciplined regimen

Some people gravitate quite naturally to detailed analysis work.

For the rest of us it’s necessary to carve out time in our week to focus on the numbers.

For me, that can mean a daily 30 minute slot on my calendar to do nothing but crunching numbers. Others like to set aside a day a week.

Whatever system you choose, start by creating immovable time in your week.

2.  Surround yourself with experts

Early on in my leadership I learned to hand-select key advisors whom I could trust to develop my own skills in detail analysis work, and who could also help me burrow deep into the organization’s vital metrics.

One question I ask each time I meet with these advisors: “What do I need to know?”

That question can open a well-spring of vital leadership data.

3.  Let your team know you’re paying attention to the details

When your team is aware that you know the details it positions you for big picture leadership.

I recently saw a senior executive of a large organization notify his staff that certain staff expenditures were being submitted which could not be justified.

This statement not only corrected a problem, more importantly it let the entire staff know that their president was paying attention to the finest details.

So by all means, keep the big picture in mind. But pay close attention to the fine details too.

Because the big picture is made up of thousands of details.

How do you stay on top of the details in your leadership?


The Question Leaders Must Answer When the Pressure is On

Updated from May 12, 2014 post

Where do you go when the pressure is on?

Every leader feels pressure; pressure to perform, pressure to achieve, pressure to succeed, and many, many other stresses unique to leaders.

And when the pressure is on, every leader, whether they realize it or not, wants to go someplace.

The important question is, “Are you aware of where you want to go when you face pressure?”

Because some places are very helpful, soul-filling, and healthy.

And many others are horrendously destructive.

Case in point.

King David faced tremendous pressures, which he wrote about in Psalm 55:

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…My heart is in anguish within me. (Psalm 55: 2, 4)

And in response, David’s first instinct was to escape.

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert.” (Psalm 55: 6,7)

Every leader who has faced pressure (in other words, every leader) can relate to David’s desire to go someplace.

The key is to be aware of where it is you want to go.

At first, David wanted to go hide out in the desert.

And every leader needs to be ruthlessly honest and figure out where their “desert” really is.

For some when the pressure is on, they want to hide out in the desert of social media. For others it’s the desert of busyness. Still others want to hide in the desert of pornography, alcohol or in unhealthy relationships.

David was aware that his first instinct might have been to flee to the desert, but he also had the presence of mind to be able to set that aside and to instead go to a much more healthy place.

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.

As for me, I trust in you. (Psalm 55: 16, 33)

When the pressure was on, David recognized his first instinct to flee to the desert, but ultimately he recognized that the only place to go was to lean in to God.

May this be true for you when you face your pressures.

Where do you go when the leadership pressure is on?


3 Leadership Signs that Projects are Trumping People

Fans of the classic British tv comedy “Fawlty Towers” should be able to immediately remember this famous line:

“Stop bothering me. I am trying to run a hotel!”

John Cleese played Basil Fawlty a harried owner of a small English hotel. The central gag of the show was that Fawlty was forever arguing with hotel guests and staff, trying in vain to explain that he didn’t have time to deal with their concerns. He was, after all, “trying to run a hotel.”

But within this hilarious comedy gem lies a huge leadership issue that applies to each one of us.

Projects must never trump people.

Leaders must certainly carry out various solo functions, such as planning, financial analysis, emails, and so on. But when the drive to accomplish these jobs starts to make interactions with people seem like an inconvenience, you’ve fallen into the Basil Fawlty trap; Projects are trumping people.

Here’s how you can tell that projects could be starting to trump people:

1.       You are keeping your office door closed a bit too often

Every leader requires some alone think-time. But if your people are finding themselves increasingly locked out of your world, it could be that projects are trumping people.

2.       You are increasingly connecting to your own people via email.

Remember when you used to walk around and talk to your team? Don’t let that human interaction become replaced by inter-office email.

3.       You are cancelling meetings in order to work on your projects

Too many meetings can be a bad thing. So too can too few meetings. If you’re avoiding meetings so you can work on solo projects, it’s time to re-think priorities.

None of this is to suggest that, as a leader, your people should have unfettered access to you. Your time is valuable and must be well managed.

But when the desire for solitude begins to take priority over real, live, human interactions it’s time to stop and recalibrate your leadership.

Whatever your leadership role, those people issues should never be a distraction from your leadership.

Because dealing with those people issues is at the heart of your leadership.

How do you prevent projects from trumping people?

For Leaders, It’s Not About Time; It’s About How You Think About Time

When people ask me about the biggest leadership lesson I’ve learned, my mind quickly races back to a critical moment fairly early in my leadership.

It was when I learned that the effectiveness of my leadership was tied to how I think about time.

I had recently been moved up into my first middle manager position in a medium-sized company.

Those early days overwhelmed me. I couldn’t seem to get anything done on time.

Everyone was upset with me. The sales department was upset with me. The clients were upset with me. My staff was upset with me.

Fortunately, one person who was not upset with me, was my boss. Taking me aside one day, he told me that if I was going to find success I would need to start thinking about time the way a leader does.

He would instill in me three crucial ways leaders think about time:

1.       Time is the great equalizer; we all receive the same 24 hours every day

“Scott, you might not have the same talent as all other leaders,” he would say, “You might not have the same level of financial resources. But I can guarantee that you started today with the same 24 hours as every other leader in the world. Learn to master your time.”

That simple, but profound starting point, was huge.

2.       Leaders don’t merely manage time; they invest it

“Here’s what great leaders know, Scott,” he would go on. “Time is not something to be managed. It’s a precious resource to be invested.”

That took my thinking from “management” to “leadership”.

3.       Leaders align time with values and priorities

“One reason you’ve been struggling is that you’ve bought into the ‘first things first’ mindset,” he would say. “Leader don’t think that way. They think, ‘IMPORTANT things first.”

I learned that leaders must be crystal clear on values and strategic priorities, and then drive their time investments through those priorities.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all that’s on your plate, perhaps it’s not about your time. It could be how you think about your time.

Develop leadership thinking habits about time.

Because the effectiveness of your leadership is tied to how you think about time.

What have you learned about how leaders think about time?

Why the Big Picture is Such a Big Deal for Leaders

If you do nothing else as a leader this week, keep the big picture front and center for everyone to see and grasp.

Because in leadership, painting the big picture is a very big deal.

This was vividly demonstrated a few years ago in the locker room of a pro hockey team. It was late in the season and the team was battling for a playoff spot. At the same time, several players were closing in on individual point totals that would qualify them for performance bonuses.

After practice the coach gathered the team around and said to one of the players, “How many points do you need for your bonus?”

“7, coach,” came the reply.

The coach looked at another player. “And you?”

“9 points, coach,” he responded immediately.

The coach nodded and looked at the next player. “You?”

“5 points coach.”

The coach nodded and silently walked around the room. After a few minutes he looked back at the team and said quietly, “We are fighting for our playoff lives. Who can tell me how many wins we need to secure a playoff spot?”

Each player slowly cast his eyes to the floor. No one would look up. No one knew the answer.

“…and that, team,” the coach quietly concluded, “Is our biggest problem.”

There’s nothing wrong with individual performance goals. In fact, they’re very important. But the job of the leader is to help each person understand how their individual accomplishments fit in to the bigger picture.

Can you tell if the big picture is fading into the background?

Absolutely. Here are three of the biggest indicators.

1.  Your culture replaces collaboration with competition

Not all competition is unhealthy in your culture. But when it trumps collaboration and team work, it’s a sure sign the big picture needs to be reinforced.

2.  The team has little interest in celebrating group accomplishments

Watch the energy when the accomplishment of a team goal is being celebrated. Low energy tells you the big picture isn’t being embraced.

3.  Water cooler talk centers on individual accomplishments.

Again, individual accomplishments should be recognized. But if that’s all people are talking about you need to polish up the big picture for your team.

So keep the big picture front and center for your team.

That might be the most important picture you’ll ever paint.

How do you keep the big picture front and center?


3 Ways “God-Sized Dreams” Can Hurt Your Leadership

Updated from May 8, 2014 post

“What is your God-sized dream?”

How many times have you heard a Christian leader challenge you with those words?

The concept of the God-sized dream usually equates to an expectation that a leader will devote their energies towards those things which are sizable, significant, and expansive.

These, by apparent definition, are the purview of God; therefore, such dreams are dubbed “God-sized”.

The problem is that this concept of the God-sized dream is fraught with errors. And further, leaders who buy in to this concept run the very real risk of hitting 3 leadership walls:

Wall #1: It creates an inaccurate view of the leadership God honors

Does the leadership which God honors really limited only to that which is large, significant, and expansive?

Scripture teaches nothing of the kind.

True, God gave many leaders in Scripture significant challenges and opportunities (Joseph, Moses, Paul). But was the widow who gave 2 coins in the temple offering any less honored by God? Was Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet, any less honored?

Wall #2: It distorts the definition of leadership success

“God has not called us to be successful.” Mother Theresa once famously said. “He has called us to be faithful.”

A God-sized dream for a pastor could be to build a church of 5000 people.

But it could also be to steadfastly shepherd the flock of 100 people in a rural farming community year after year.

Wall #3: It can rob leaders of the call God really has for them

In Numbers 12 a group of leaders, including Moses’ own brother and sister, felt that they had a “God-sized dream”, which was to lead the Children of Israel.

The problem was that leading the Israelites was a dream God had already given to Moses. He had other dreams for these leaders.

Here’s the point. Don’t let culture’s version of what constitutes a “God-sized dream” rob you of what God might have in store for you.

I believe God does have a dream for each leader.

My encouragement for you is not to chase after what our culture considers to be a God-sized dream. Instead, seek for what God has for a “You-sized dream.”

It could make all the difference in the world.

How have you processed the idea of “God-sized dreams” in your leadership?

4 Surprising Disciplines Effective Leaders Must Master

Update from May 5, 2014 post

Leaders must be people of extraordinary discipline.

But the types of disciplines effective leaders must master could surprise you.

In his celebrated leadership book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins unpacks the profound wisdom of the leader’s “20 mile march”.

Collins argues that the discipline of consistency is one of the leader’s greatest allies.

He writes, “The 20-Mile March imposes order amid disorder, consistency amid swirling inconsistency. But it works only if you actually achieve your march year after year. If you set a 20-Mile March and then fail to achieve it — or worse, abandon fanatic discipline altogether — you may well get crushed by events.”

So what are the fanatic disciplines a leader must master?

Volumes have been written about the disciplines of team-building, vision casting and strategic planning.

But I believe that there are at least 4 often overlooked disciplines that effective leaders must master.

1.  The discipline of not working

By this I simply mean that effective leaders know the value of ending the day, of putting down the phone and the laptop, and of saying “Team, we’re done”.

The day of the all-nighter is over.

2.  The discipline of fun

Many driven leaders find that simple fun does not come easy, and that it has to be placed in their Outlook calendar.

That’s ok. Whatever it takes, effective leaders must find a way to keep the discipline of laughter and light-heartedness alive in the organization.

3.  The discipline of celebration

The natural instinct of every leader is to look forward at the distance still to be traveled towards the goal.

But don’t forget the discipline of looking back at the ground that’s already been covered.

Celebrating the progress already achieved builds tremendous momentum for the team.

4.  The discipline of “counting your blessings”

Effective leaders make a regular routine of stopping just to notice how fortunate they, and their organization, really are.

These leaders know that one of the best ways to combat the daily pressures inherent in the role of leadership is to take regular stock of the things that are just going well these days.

So keep diligently focused on the disciplines of number crunching, attendance counting and budget analyzing.

But along the way don’t forget the importance of these other disciplines too.

They’re some of the best ways to keep a spring in your step along your 20 mile march.

What would you add to this list?


The 5 “Isms” of Insecure Leadership

Updated from February 17, 2014 post

“A lot can happen when you have an insecure leader. None of it very good.”

That wisdom from a church leader with whom I served in Canada has stayed with me for years.

He was pointing out that an insecure leader will inevitably speak or act in ways that ultimately will do harm to the people or organization.

Ever since then I’ve learned to keep a watchful eye out for signs of insecurity in my own leadership, and those around me.

Here are what I’ve found are 5 of the most common indicators of an insecure leader:

1.   Me-ism

Me-ism is a particularly destructive trait among insecure leaders. It frequently shows up as an undeserved demand for esteem. Rather than focusing their energies on the needs of the organization, the me-ist leader sees everyone and everything as revolving around themselves.

2.   Stubborn-ism

The stubbornist is the leader who pushes an idea regardless of input being provided by the rest of the team. Even when an idea has been demonstrated as being unwise, the stubbornist will cling to it and push it even if only to save face.

All of this flows out of insecurity.

3.   Talk-ism

The insecure leader can often be spotted merely by the volume of words they feel compelled to spew. Talk-ists seem to justify their leadership by the word count; the more they talk, the more important they must be.

4.   Agree-ism

Insecurity often leads to people-pleasing, and one of the first indicators of this is an uncontrollable desire to agree with just about everyone.

Eventually of course, this gets the leader into trouble, when they realize they are agreeing with opposing views on the same topic. Such leadership will grind forward movement to a halt.

5.   Defensive-ism

The insecure leader will often respond very negatively to opposing views. Even when those views are presented with respect, the insecure leader will sometimes lash out, feeling that their tenuous position of authority has been threatened.

The reason? The insecure leader can’t separate the idea from their own identity. And the result is a team unwilling or unable to present genuinely fresh, innovative ideas of their own.

So keep on guard for these indicators of an insecure leader and learn to develop grow through these various “isms”.

Because as my friend said, as an insecure leader you can still accomplish a lot. But none of it very good.

What other indicators of insecure leaders have you seen?


The Secret “One-Two Punch” of Effective Leadership

It’s no secret. Passion is a required trait for any leader.

But on its own, passion isn’t enough.

Passion is certainly required to attract a team, to launch change, and to begin driving towards a better future. But it will only get you out of the starting blocks.

Effective leaders know that passion is only one part of a leader’s one-two punch.

For long-lasting impact to occur, a heavy dose of discipline must come along right after passion.

Discipline is the ability to systematically and methodically push through obstacles. It’s what enables a leader to channel all of that passion into a sustainable plan that delivers results.

Together, passion and discipline create a formidable leadership combination.

Here are 10 realities leaders know about the one-two punch of passion and discipline:

1.  Passion sees the vision. Discipline translates it into action.

2.  Passion attracts a team. Discipline builds the team

3.  Passion makes good decisions. Discipline implements the decisions.

4.  Passion establishes values. Discipline lives the values out.

5.  Passion envisions a healthy culture. Discipline makes it happen.

6.  Passion describes the goal. Discipline forms the strategy to reach the goal.

7.  Passion creates priorities. Discipline executes the priorities.

8.  Passion generates ideas. Discipline turns them into reality.

9.   Passion challenges people to grow. Discipline helps the do it.

10.             Passion drives innovation. Discipline drives implementation.

The point, of course, is not that one is more important than the other.

Rather, passion and discipline are dependent on each other.

But the reality is, passion gets more press. Passion is flashier. But without the discipline to translate all that passion into action, you’re left with nothing more than hype.

So by all means, be sure your leadership contains plenty of passion.

Just be sure it’s followed up by a heavy dose of discipline.

That’s the one-two punch you’ll need for long-lasting, high-impact results.

How do you make sure discipline always accompanies passion in your leadership?

4 Myths about Kindness Leaders Must Overcome

Updated from January 31, 2014 post

What qualities define great leaders?

A good argument can be made for each of the following:

  • Decisive
  • Bold
  • Daring
  • Tough
  • Resilient

But in this list I would venture that a less common but equally important quality should be included.


By kindness, I’m not referring to “niceness”.

No, kindness is different. Kindness is a core leadership value that places the well-being of others ahead of yourself.

Kind leaders get the job done by ensuring that those they lead are well served, supported and understood.

Now, some leaders shy away from exhibiting this leadership value because they have come to believe four myths of kind leadership. If you’re going to excel in your leadership you must understand and dispel these myths.

Myth #1: If you’re kind people will take advantage of you

Being kind doesn’t mean being weak. Kind leaders are strong and hold people to account. But they do so in a way that doesn’t diminish people.

Myth #2: If you’re kind people will not be motivated to excel

People can respond to kindness with a deep desire to do their very best. Don’t be misled into thinking that motivation is the exclusive purview of the tough boss.

Myth #3: If you’re kind the organization will move too slowly

Quick decisions can be important in any organization. And being kind is absolutely no handicap when it comes to sizing up a situation, seeking input, and then making and communicating a fast decision.

Myth #4: If you’re kind you can’t make hard decisions

Perhaps no myth is more wide spread than this one. But there is no connection between being kind and the ability to make the tough call. The advantage to kind leadership is that you can communicate the tough call with sensitivity.

So as you develop your leadership, continue to be bold, daring, decisive and resilient.

But don’t forget a little kindness along the way too.

And if you find yourself thinking that kindness doesn’t belong in leadership, remember that’s just a myth.

How myths would you add to this list?


5 Signs You’ve Taken Your Eye Off the Leadership Ball

It only takes a second.

A brief moment when, just for an instant, a receiver in an (American) football game takes his eye off the ball.

That fleeting moment of lost focus can not only result in a dropped pass, sometimes it can cost the team the game.

It’s no different in the game of leadership.

One of the most important roles of the leader is to ensure that they, and their team, are keeping their eye on the ball at all times.

That means providing clarity of focus and helping each person know which priorities require attention.

In one of my early leadership roles I found myself second-in-command in an organization with about 40 employees. One day a department head came to me with a plan to relocate her team’s offices to a different part of the building.

The basic idea made sense, so I took the proposal to the senior leader.

His feedback? “Scott, your job is to keep everyone’s eye on the ball. That department is under-performing, and rather than helping them get on track you want their energy to go towards an office relocation?”

I’ve never forgotten that counsel, nor the lesson it taught me.

Leaders must keep their eye on the ball at all times.

Here are 5 indicators that you might have taken your eye off the ball:

1.  There is no alignment in your “to do” list

A clear, direct line should run between your daily activities and your most important goals.

2.  Your team is vague on today’s highest priorities

Every member of your team should be able to state unequivocally how their assignments are furthering the organization’s objectives.

3.  You are being sidetracked with “busy work”

Busy work are tasks you indulge in which keeps your time occupied, but which does little to advance key objectives.

4.  You’ve been avoiding difficult conversations

In order to keep your team on track it requires the occasional tough conversation, where you correct mission-drift.

5.  You haven’t noticed measurable movement towards key goals

If neither you, nor your team, can point to recent “wins” with respect to key goals, you’ve likely taken your eye off the ball.

Watch vigilantly for these indicators.

Because when the game really counts, your focus matters more than ever.

How do you keep your eye on the leadership ball?

Beware of these 5 Fake Leadership Costumes

Updated from July 18, 2013 post

October 31st is Halloween in many parts of the world. In recognition of the day’s traditions, I’m revisiting the importance of leaders avoiding wearing certain “costumes”…


Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a hilarious routine about being given a Superman costume for a Halloween present.

Reading the box, he was surprised to read the disclaimer, “Do not attempt to fly!”

“I love the idea of the kid who’s stupid enough to think he really is Superman,” Seinfeld muses, “but smart enough to check that box before he goes off the roof.”


Thinking that by merely putting on the right costume it could somehow magically transform you.

And yet some people think that’s how leadership works.

They’ve seen the costume and believe that if they simply put it on then they too will be magically transformed into a leader.

These fake leadership costumes come in a variety of forms. Here are five of the most common:

1.   Bossy-ness

Simply barking out orders doesn’t make you a leader.

Usually it just makes a person a bit obnoxious.

2.   Busy-ness

This is a common one. Some people actually believe that by darting frantically from one disjointed activity to another, it must mean they are a great leader.

Often it means only that the person is either unfocused or a poor time manager.

 3.   Distracted-ness

This costume is easy to spot.

It’s worn by the person who keeps their smart phone on ready alert, even when they’re in a conversation with you. At the slightest vibration their attention is immediately diverted away from you and onto their device.

That’s no indication of leadership. Really, it’s just poor manners.

 4.   Crankiness

This one is a personal favorite. Some people actually believe that simply by taking on a frustrated disposition it indicates that they must be carrying huge leadership responsibilities.

Actually, it just means they’re not much fun to be around.

 5.   Talky-ness

While it’s true that effective leaders are good communicators, some people get this one all wrong. They believe that they can be a leader simply by being able to talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…

But anyone can talk. Leaders, on the other hand, communicate. Huge difference.

Bill Hybels has provided what I believe is one of the best definitions of leadership ever given. “Leadership,” he explains, “is being able to move people from here to there.”

In other words, the measurement of leadership is, “Are you taking people with you to a goal?”

If not, you might just be wearing the costume.

What other forms of leadership costumes have you seen?


How Your Leadership Can Soar with a Pre-Flight Checklist

When you started your day today, did you go through your leadership checklist?

Effective leaders are like airline pilots. Before taking off, a pilot will go through an extensive checklist to ensure that the plane is fully prepared and equipped for the journey ahead.

Only when the pilot is satisfied that this meticulous safety list has been checked off will they allow the plane to be pushed back from the gate.

In the same way effective leaders would do well to start each day running down a thorough checklist to ensure their leadership will be maximized that day.

What should be on that checklist?

That depends on what kind of leader you aspire to be.

For me, these are the kinds of items that appear on my leadership checklist.

Today I will do everything possible to be a leader who is:


  • I want my leadership to be “others-focused”

√  Decisive

  • I want today’s decisions to be unwavering


  • I want my team to know I am available


  • I want to give my team the gift of absolute clarity


  • I want to pursue our goals with gusto


  • I want to willingly and openly share my time, ideas and resources


  • I want my team to feed off my hoped-filled outlook


  • I want to build a culture that draws others in


  • I want to diligently develop rising leaders over the long-haul


  • I want to be transparent and authentic

The point is, no one ever drifted into being a leader of character. No one ever accidentally discovered that they were becoming clearer, more authentic or more decisive.

To move towards these qualities starts with a daily commitment to increasingly incorporate these qualities into your leadership.

So try developing your “pre-flight checklist”.

It could be one tool to help your leadership really take off.

What’s on your leadership pre-flight checklist?

Top 30 Leadership Quotes from the 2014 Summit


  • “Great leadership is, by definition, relentlessly developmental.”
  • “Resourcefulness is the most important weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”
  • “The grander the vision, the greater the price-tag.“


  • “Managers produce results within the existing order of things. Leaders change the order of things.”


  • “Throughout my career there’s never been a job that’s been beneath me.” 
  • “Your peers ultimately decide how far you go.”
  • “We can tell a lot about culture and leadership when times are tough.”
  • “The best leaders keep their people safe, but they keep moving forward.”
  • “Excuses turn everybody off. Excuses say “you’re not going to learn.”


  • “Stop the madness of constant group work.”
  • “We need to restore quiet to our cultures.”


  • “Do not relegate leadership to a little theory.”
  • “Our vision as leaders has got to be more than the stuff that will perish.”


  • “If we’re doing it (leadership) for ourselves we’re going to leave a trail of tears behind.”
  • “Our people don’t expect us to be perfect. They expect us to be human.”
  • “Being a leader means sacrificing yourself for the well-being of others.”


  • “The power of a group is a function of the purity of its motives.”
  • “Your job as a leader is to identify the 2 or 3 crucial conversations that most affect your culture.”
  • “People never become defensive about what you’re saying. They become defensive because of why they think you’re saying it.”


  • “My day begins with prayer for my company that it would be a signpost for the Kingdom of God.”
  • “The company will not be more truthful or graceful than I am.”
  • “Challenge without confidence creates fear. Confidence without challenge creates complacency.”
  • “The world will not form distinctive Christians. It’s the job of the church to do that.”


  • “God doesn’t know the division between church and business. We’re the ones who build these walls.”
  • “I am so convinced that if we invite the Kingdom of God into the public areas I believe that God will take over and will begin to see better societies.”


  • “As a business you cannot let your budget dictate your faith.”


  • “There is no such thing as leadership without power. The real question is ‘how should leaders manage the privilege of power?’”
  • “The true secret of any great leader’s power is that when you feel the weakest that’s when you are the strongest.”


  • “The doorposts of the Kingdom of God are humility and honor.”
  • “You don’t have to know everything about how to get up the mountain in front of you. You just have to take the first step.”

Top 15 quotes from day 1 of the 2014 Summit


  • “Great leadership is, by definition, relentlessly developmental.”
  • “Resourcefulness is the most important weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”
  • “The grander the vision, the greater the price-tag.“


  • “Managers produce results within the existing order of things. Leaders change the order of things.”


  • “Throughout my career there’s never been a job that’s been beneath me.” 
  • “Your peers ultimately decide how far you go.”
  • “We can tell a lot about culture and leadership when times are tough.”
  • “The best leaders keep their people safe, but they keep moving forward.”
  • “Excuses turn everybody off. Excuses say “you’re not going to learn.”


  • “Stop the madness of constant group work.”
  • “We need to restore quiet to our cultures.”

From Bryan Loritts

  • “Do not relegate leadership to a little theory.”
  • “Our vision as leaders has got to be more than the stuff that will perish.”

From Patrick Lencioni

  • “If we’re doing it (leadership) for ourselves we’re going to leave a trail of tears behind.”
  • “Our people don’t expect us to be perfect. They expect us to be human.”

Are You a Time Waster, Loser, Spender, or Investor?

Everyone has different levels of talent, resources and opportunities.

But one thing we each have in equal measure is time.

And how we use this precious commodity is what separates truly effective leaders from everyone else.

As a leader you are either a time waster, a time loser, a time spender, or a time investor. This is not a matter of “time management”; it’s a question of investing an extremely important commodity.

So where do you land?

To find out, think through Steven Covey’s legendary “4 quadrants”. Every activity in which you engage will be a combination of urgent or not urgent (something requiring immediate attention) and important and not important (something related to your goals and plans).

  • Not Urgent and Not Important: TIME WASTING

These activities are neither time sensitive nor relevant to your goals. These are pleasant time fillers, day dreaming, and so on.

This is time you never get back. It’s frittered away with meaningless activity.

  • Urgent and Not Important: TIME LOSING

These activities include responding to urgent demands (a ringing phone, someone walking into your office) but which might not be connected to your priorities.

At least someone else benefited from your time, but for you the time is lost, and that’s a poor exchange.

  • Urgent and Important: TIME SPENDING

These activities are very time sensitive and are related to your goals and plans. These are emergencies and other frantic activities driven to meet a tight deadline.

It’s related to your priorities, so this time is not a total loss. But, as Covey points out, urgent and important activities sometimes reflect poor planning and, as such, are not the optimal activities for an effective leader.

  • Not urgent and Important: TIME INVESTING

Students of Covey will recognize “Quadrant 2” immediately, and will know this is where you want to invest your time. This is where your time has the greatest return to your leadership.

These activities, such as strategic planning, team building and goal setting, is where the highest levels of leadership take place. Your activities here are the purest investment of time.

You can’t change the level of natural leadership talent you have. But what you can control is how you deploy your time.

Think through these quadrants and you could become as shrewd an investor as any leader.

How do you invest your leadership time?

10 Easy-to-spot Character Signs for Building a Great Team

Updated from July 26, 2013 post

A half truth.

A questionable use of time.

Poor judgment concerning the use of organization resources.

If you’ve ever seen this kind of behavior pattern emerge with someone on your team, you know you’ve had to deal with a character issue.

Finding leaders for your team who exhibit the highest standards of character is the ballgame when it comes to building a world-class team.

The question is, how do you find these people?

You don’t look at the resume. Resume’s don’t reveal character.

You don’t look at the person’s skills or even record of achieving results. Even the most unscrupulous person can deliver results.

So if discerning character is so important, how do you discern if you’re dealing with someone of strong character?

The place to begin is with the first words out of their mouth.

There’s no fool-proof formula, but in my experience in building teams I’ve learned to pay attention to patterns of speech as early indicators.

Listen for these 10 indicators of strong character. Chances are, if you’re seeing these patterns in their conversation you may well be dealing with the kind of person you want on your team.

  1. They receive a compliment with grace.
  2. They receive negative feedback with humility and non-defensiveness.
  3. When they disagree with you, they hold their position and yet still extend respect.
  4. Their “yes” is yes, and their “no” is no.
  5. They are quick to shine the spotlight on others.
  6. Their apologies are unreserved; they don’t say, “I’m sorry, but” or “I’m sorry if…”
  7. If they don’t know the answer to a question, they say so; they don’t bluff their way through.
  8. They don’t dominate conversations; they are genuinely more interested in the voices of others.
  9. Their conversation includes plenty of “pleases” and “thank you’s”.
  10. They speak truth, regardless of how it makes them look.

This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good start.

Follow up by talking with every reference, and talk to the references of references. Talk to their former employer. Ask of they’d hire this person again.

Bottom line, is don’t cut corners when it comes to discerning character issues on your team.

And the first place you should begin is with the first words out of their mouth.

How do you spot strong character when you’re building a team?


How to Harness Curiosity for Maximum Leadership Results

How high is your leadership curiosity quotient (LCQ)?

If you’re low on the curiosity scale, chances are you accept things pretty much the way things are.

But if you’re an effective leader, or strive to be, your curiosity is a force that drives things forward.

The question is, how do you harness your curiosity for maximum leadership results?

One great way to harness your curiosity is to think in terms of 3 specific questions.

1.       WHY?

“Why?” is a question that looks to the past.

It looks at the current status and asks “Why do we do things this way?”, “Why are our results slipping?” or “Why is has our culture developed like this?”

The answers to these questions are found in the past. These “Why” questions force you to analyze the origins of things with a view to understanding the current state of things.

2.       WHAT?

“What?” is a question that looks to the present.

It looks around and asks, “What is happening in the other parts of the organization?” “What is our competition doing differently these days?”, and “What are our current highest priorities?”

The answers to these questions are found in the present. These “What” questions cause you to probe the present state of your team, organization, market, etc. in order to inform future plans.

3.       HOW?

“How?” is a question that looks to the future.

It looks forward and asks, “How will we need to operate in the future?”, “How will the market change in the coming years?” and “How do we need to adapt our strategies to achieve future goals?”

The answers to these questions are found in the future. These “How” questions make you focus your attention on the coming weeks, months and years and drive necessary changes.

Put another way, curious leaders want to understand the past, be fully aware of the present, and look knowingly to the future.

If you’re looking for maximum results try using the WHO, WHAT, HOW approach to your leadership.

It could turn your curiosity into a powerful driver for change.

How would you rate your own Leadership Curiosity Quotient?