October 25, 2014

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?



Are You a Leadership Hoarder, Lender, or Giver?

In your leadership, are you a hoarder, a lender or a giver?

How you answer that question will go a long way to determining what kind of impact you’ll have.

 The hoarding leader

This is someone who devours leadership learnings, but keeps it all to themselves. Rather than investing their knowledge and experience in other rising leaders, the hoarding leader will simply amass more and more leadership knowledge.

Sometimes they’ll toss out some leadership nuggets they’ve picked up someplace, or they’ll casually mention the title of the latest leadership book they’ve read, but this will be more to impress people than to build into them.

Ultimately the hoarding leader will have almost no impact. They’ll just keep reading leadership books (and blogs), they’ll listen to leadership podcasts and they’ll attend leadership conferences.

But no one else will derive any benefit from any of it.

The lending leader

This person is a notch better than the hoarding leader. But not by much.

They will indeed share their leadership insights with others. And these lending leaders will do so in the hope that others will develop as a result.

But lending leaders have an agenda. Like a money lender, lending leaders expect something in return. While they will invest in rising leaders, their hope will be that this investment will yield dividends that will benefit themselves in some way.

The giving leader

Ultimately, it is only the giving leader who will make a lasting impact.

That’s because giving leaders selflessly invest all of who they are in the development of others, with no thought to any personal reward.

Giving leaders are driven only by the desire to see other leaders grow, mature and develop. Giving leaders recognize that the investments they have received are not meant to be either hoarded or exchanged. They know that their experiences and learnings are a gift that must be shared.

So they’ll study leadership and they’ll learn everything they can from their own experiences. Then they’ll take this rich investment and they’ll pour it into the development of rising leaders around them.

So, once again, what kind of leader are you?

If you truly desire to make a positive, lasting impact, the only route is to be the kind who gives it all away.

How do you give away your leadership?

The Surprising Voice Influencing Your Leadership Decisions

So, who’s been whispering in your ear?

Every time you need to make a leadership decision there’s a little voice whispering in your ear.

Do you know who it is and what it’s saying?

This whispering voice has tremendous influence over whether you hire this person or that person. It informs whether you drive for growth or lean towards quality control.

The little voice I’m talking about? It’s your hidden values.

Your hidden values are different than the corporate values you espouse, like “Excellence”, “Integrity” and “Innovation”. Hidden values lie much deeper.

Hidden values are found in the hot-wiring of “who you are”; they are the basic make-up of your character, and ultimately they drive the dozens of leadership decisions you make every day-  whether you’ll hire, or fire…whether you’ll act or wait…whether you’ll buy or sell.

Let me give you an example.

A while ago I was admiring a beautiful red Ferrari, and the friend I was standing with said, “Wouldn’t you love to own that?”

“Who wouldn’t?” I answered. “But I could never afford it.”

“Sure you could,” my friend replied. “You could buy that car today. Just sell your house. You’d have plenty of money to buy that car.”

Then he explained the power of hidden values. “The reason you don’t buy that car is not because of lack of money. It’s because deep inside you cling to a different value; security and well-being for your family.”

The point is that effective leadership requires understanding these hidden values, what they’re whispering in your ear. Because when you are aware of these hidden values you can recognize whether they are helping, or hurting, your decisions.

So what are your hidden values, and what are they whispering in your ear?

See if any of these resonate with you…

  • “I like to be in control”
  • “I like to take risks”
  • “I prefer to play it safe”
  • “I like structure”
  • “I don’t like surprises”
  • “I’m a people-pleaser”
  • “I power up when I feel cornered”
  • “I need my decisions to be affirmed”
  • “I thrive on change”
  • “I need to see every detail before I sign off”

Bottom line- learn the hidden values you carry with you every day, and recognize how they are influencing your decisions.

It’s the first step to making those decisions the best they can be.

What hidden value influences your decisions?

Could a Lesser Mission be Hijacking Your Primary Mission?

Update from February 22, 2011 post

No one in the world of sports has dominated headlines of late as has NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

But the Ray Rice incident is not the first time Goodell has found himself in the cross hairs of the media’s focus. And an episode in 2011 provided a classic leadership example that remains as relevant as ever.

It’s a reminder that sometimes  lesser mission can hijack a leader’s primary mission.

ROGER GOODELL’S MOMENT: The NFL commissioner is the most powerful man in sports, presiding over the most lucrative league in the world. His job right now is to stop it from all falling apart.

The message on the cover of the recent Sports Illustrated issue contains a powerful reality check for every leader.

What is Goodell’s moment? It’s not connected to his primary mission (building and promoting the game of professional football). It’s connected to a lesser mission (divvying up billions of dollars in league revenues among millionaire owners and millionaire players).

Goodell must pay attention to how league revenues are doled out. That’s just not his primary mission.

In other words, Goodell’s primary mission could be hijacked by a lesser mission.

And this prompts a question that every leader should consider; “Are lesser missions hijacking me from my primary mission?”

There are business leaders who arrived in their role determined to “create sustainable energy for future generations”, but who ended up simply battling for a slightly larger share of the market.

There are church leaders whose vision is to see “every person grow into the image of Christ”, but whose defining moment ends up being adding a Saturday night service.

Lesser missions are neither inappropriate nor unimportant. But they can easily preoccupy a leader and take focus off the primary mission.

How can you tell if your primary mission is being hijacked? Here are a few warning signs I’ve learned from great leaders:

  • Your board meetings and staff meetings are focused on lesser missions.
  • Your personal journal entries are dominated by concerns over lesser missions.
  • The books you’re reading are not connected to your primary mission.

If you think you might be sliding away from your primary mission, for the next month try paying attention to these indicators.

Because if you’re a leader in the local church, your primary mission is of far greater consequence than simply saving the NFL season.

How do you keep focused on your primary mission?


5 Ways to Hack Your Way to High Impact Leadership

High impact leaders are great weed-hackers.

And because they’re so ruthlessly effective with their weed-hacking they have far greater impact than their non-hacking counterparts.

What sets them apart?

For one thing, weed-hacking leaders understand and embrace the 80-20 rule (Pareto Principle); they know that 80% of their leadership results come from 20% of the work on their plate.

If they were to list 10 items on their “to do” list in order of importance, from 1 to 10, they know that the first two items on their list will result in 80% of the results they’re trying to achieve.

And they’ll do whatever it takes to focus their energies on those top priorities.

The rest of the list? Those are the weeds. They’re made up of emails, phone calls, administrative tasks, and other non-essentials. Necessary, but not able to deliver the results of their top ranked tasks.

And so they hack. So obsessed are they with focusing on their top priorities they’ll savagely push through lower priority tasks in order to get to the high-impact stuff.

And the result is disproportionately greater impact than otherwise possible.

How can you achieve these kinds of high-impact results?

It begins by using these five weed-hacking tools:

1.  Being clear on your goals

Know exactly what you’re trying to achieve, and why it matters.

2.  Being certain about your priorities

There can be no fuzziness when it comes to recognizing which activities will drive your results.

3.  Being on top of your personal organization

Weed-hackers stay on top of their work. They drive the job, the job doesn’t drive them.

4.  Being purposeful with your delegation

Weed-hackers keep only the tasks that they alone can and must do.

5.  Being disciplined with your time

Distractions can attempt to command your time and attention. High impact leaders are unfazed, keeping their best time focused on their most important tasks.

Every leader can keep themselves busy.

But if you want to produce high impact results the key is to keep busy with what matters the most.

And to do that requires being unflinchingly focused on your top priorities.

Just grab your machete.

And start hacking.

How do you keep focused on your top leadership priorities?




3 Ways Leaders Can Achieve Much More than Mere “Balance”

Updated from June 2, 2014 post

I hate to break it to you.

But if you’re a leader looking for the elusive work-life balance, brace yourself.

It doesn’t exist.

At least, not for effective leaders.

There are two basic problems with the quest for balance.

First of all, no one can really define it. Does it mean you spend equal amounts of time at work, at home, at leisure, at study, and so on?

That’s ludicrous.

Secondly, the pursuit of work-life balance assumes you can, and should, segment your life. It suggests your life has a segment called “Work”, another called “Family”, another called “Spiritual” another called “Recreational”, and so on.

Life just doesn’t work like that.

At least, not for effective leaders.


Effective leaders set their sights much higher than mere balance. They strive instead for harmony or alignment in every area of their life.

It’s the idea that the various areas of your life flow together, weaving in and out of your world, resulting in fulfillment in every area of your life.

But to achieve this, leaders must establish 3 key foundations.

1.  A crystal-clear sense of personal purpose

Your life must have a clearly defined goal that brings every area of your life into alignment. In my own life, I seek to honor God in all that I do. That’s the plumb line that runs through my home, my work, my exercise, even my hobbies.

2.  An unshakable set of personal values

You can’t have one set of values in your marriage and family, and another set you use for leading your organization.

3.  An ironclad structure of personal priorities

My wife comes first. My children are second. My church is third. My work is fourth. And so on.

(Don’t ask “Where’s God?” in this. In my own life, God is in all, and through all.)

Having a clearly defined set of personal values helps you to know where, at any given time, you should be devoting your energies.

None of this is to suggest you’ll never feel the pull to spend less time at the office, nor does it mean that every life decision will automatically be easy.

But it does mean that you can actually achieve a deep sense of fulfillment in every area of your life.

And for leaders, that’s a lot better than mere balance.

How do you juggle the demands of leadership in your busy life?


What To Do When Your Leadership Has Been Rattled

Updated from May 19, 2014 post

Ever been rattled as a leader?

Sure you have.

It’s happened each time a project failed miserably.

It’s happened each time you received a stinging criticism.

No leader is immune to having their confidence shaken. And when it happens, depending how hard you’ve been rattled, it can cause you to begin second-guessing your leadership. Decisions can become more difficult. You begin to feel unsure of yourself.

How do you get your leadership confidence back?

When you’ve been rattled as a leader and you need to regain your confidence, there are four places you need to go back to.

1.  You need to back to your inner circle

In his classic book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell writes about the Law of the Inner Circle. He adds, “A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.”

Your inner circle are the ones best able to help you process your setback, and best able to help you rebuild your leadership confidence.

2.  You need to go back to your “call”.

Remind yourself about how you first recognized that you had a leadership gift, and about how it was you were called into your current role.

3.  You need to go back to your “wins”

This is not the same as feeding your ego. But it is important that you can draw to mind examples of times and places where your leadership has made a difference in the lives of people, or in the direction of the organization.

4.  You need to go back to your identity

“Who you are” is not defined by your latest setback.

For me, my identity is firmly rooted in who I am in Christ.

Know who you really are, and remind yourself of this the next time you’ve been rattled.

The kind of confidence you need to lead well is not the same as arrogance. It’s an inner resolve that is usually found in authentically humble leaders.

If yours has been rattled, try heading back to these four places.

You could be “un-rattled” before you know it.

How do you respond when your leadership has been rattled?


3 Warning Signs of an Impending Leadership Train Wreck

Have you ever witnessed a leadership train wreck?

It’s not pretty, but it’s the invariable result when leadership aggression is not accompanied by leadership discernment.

And it can leave carnage and destruction that can sometimes be beyond repair.

But if you know the warning signs to look for, these train wrecks can be completely avoidable.

Leadership train wrecks happen when the leader lunges frantically towards what they believe is the right course of action without learning all the relevant facts, perspectives and implications.

And sometimes that course of action leads directly into a brick wall of wounded relationships, lost credibility and broken trust.

So how do effective leaders avoid these train wrecks?

It begins by recognizing three vital warning signals:

  • Warning signal #1: Talking is trumping listening

Leaders are communicators. But before launching any course of action, seasoned leaders will listen to, and even solicit, the opinions of trusted voices.

“Is there another way to look at this?” “Have we considered all of the angles?” Effective leaders want answers to these questions.

If you don’t stop talking long enough to hear them, a train wreck could be coming.

  • Warning signal #2: Action is trumping discernment

A bias towards action is a vital component in the make-up of a leader.

But if that bias toward action is increasingly drowning out the need for discernment, a train wreck won’t be far behind.

In his book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, Steven Sample notes that when presented with a problem the first thing he would ask is, “How much time do I have?” Despite a desire to move to action, Sample wanted as much time as possible to think through the issue facing him.

Wise leaders do the same.

  • Warning signal #3: Emotions are trumping passions

Leaders are people of passion.

But that’s not the same as being overly emotional. Because when a leader is fueled by raw feelings of anger or frustration it can be very easy to make unwise, even foolish, decisions.

If you want to avoid a train wreck keep your passion high, but your emotions in check.

None of this is to suggest that leaders should be passive or afraid to act.

But watch for these warning signs. They’ll keep your leadership securely on the right track.

How to be a Truth-Teller in the Trenches of Leadership

Have you ever had to speak truth from the trenches of leadership?

It’s there, in the trenches, that the ability of a leader to be a truth teller is put to the test.

You see, while everyone likes to be a truth-teller when everything is looking rosy, the real test of a leader’s character is found when the challenges are at their highest.

In the trenches.

The trenches of leadership are found when the going is getting tough.

It’s when goals are not being met, when strategies are being questioned, when decisions are being second-guessed, and when teams are struggling.

If a leader can rise up and speak truth in the trenches of leadership they’ll see their leadership stock continue to rise. But it will mean proving the ability to speak truth in at least three leadership trenches:

1.       When the truth makes you look weak

Can you stand up in front of your constituents and say, “We’re missing our numbers. We’re falling behind our plan. And I am responsible for this.”

When spoken out of genuine humility, this kind of truth-telling can project tremendous strength

2.       When the truth makes you look fallible

The ability to say, “I don’t know how to do this; the truth is, I need your help” is one of the most profound forms of truth-telling possible. And it’s incredible how many leaders do not have the strength of character to be able to utter such words.

The best leaders know that, in the trenches, it’s necessary to openly acknowledge when it’s time for a little help.

3.       When the truth makes you look wrong

Admitting mistakes is one of the hardest things for many leaders to do.

But in the trenches of leadership, saying “I was wrong” is one of the most important words a leader can utter.

Rather than making excuses or assigning blame effective leaders would rather be wrong and truthful, than to appear correct through deception.

The ability to be a truth-teller is core to the character of a strong leader.

But if you want to test your own truth-telling mettle, remember that test isn’t taken when all of the lines are going up and to the right.

You can only really take this test in the trenches.

What’s the most challenging time you’ve had to be a truth-teller?

3 Lies that can Shipwreck a Leader

Updated from January 16, 2014 post

“The water should be deep enough here.”

Many a ship’s captain has believed that lie, and many of their ships have ended up stranded on a sandbar or dashed against a reef.

In the same way, there are lies that leaders are tempted to tell themselves every day. And some of these can shipwreck their leadership too.

In my experience these are some of the most dangerous lies a leader can ever tell themselves. Start believing these and you could easily find your leadership dashed on the shore.

  • “I got away with it last time. I can get away with it this time.”

There might be nothing worse for a leader than to have once cut a corner and gotten away with it. Because the next time an opportunity presents itself to shave the truth or to take a financial short cut, the temptation can be almost irresistible.

“After all,” a leader can think, “Borrowing that money from petty cash last time was ok. I returned it before getting caught. I can get away with it again this time.”

Eventually, this will shipwreck a leader’s integrity.

  • “It’s just a one-time thing.”

The idea that an off-side action can be justified “just this once” is one of the worst lies of all.

Because leaders who believe this once can begin to believe it repeatedly.

And when that happens, a leadership shipwreck isn’t far behind.

  • “It’s okay. No one will notice.”

This lie is a doozy.

It happens when a leader has dropped a leadership ball and, rather than coming clean and owning up, the leader instead pins hope against hope that no one was watching.

Instead of accountability, this leader is counting on being able to fly below the radar. “After all,” they’ll reason, “If no one picked up on the financial blunders, I’m in the clear.”

No leader ever starts out wanting to abandon their impeccable character. Leadership shipwrecks happen one little lie at a time.

So keep your radar on full alert for lies like these.

Because if you can identify and resist these kinds of lies, your leadership can sail strong for years to come.

What are some other lies leaders are tempted to believe?


5 Huge Leadership Wins by Just Showing Up

Updated from December 12, 2013 post

Woody Allen has famously said, “80% of success in life is just showing up.”

Most leaders do a good job of showing up to their office and showing up in meetings.

But there’s another huge arena where some leaders quite often fail to make an appearance. It’s an arena where significant leadership gains can be made.

I’m talking about those unscheduled, unplanned sometimes impromptu gatherings that don’t show up on your daily calendar.

It’s the lunch room, where staff are pouring their morning coffee.

It’s the lobby where church members are chatting after the service.

It’s the factory floor where workers are going about the daily grind.

When leaders take the time and make the effort to show up in these unscheduled gatherings there are at least five huge leadership wins to be made:

1.   You learn a ton about what’s REALLY going on.

You could gain more organizational intelligence when you rub shoulders with your people than you will any formal staff meeting.

2.   You can noticeably boost morale.

Face it. When the leader shows up, people notice. And it matters.

3.   You can catch people in the act of doing something right.

The best way to blow torch an organizational core value is to catch someone living it out. No better way to do that than by showing up where they’re hanging out.

4.   You can provide real-time coaching.

When you saddle up next to a team member you have a unique opportunity to enhance their performance by sharing your own skills and experience.

5.    You can spot your rising stars.

On the look-out for talent within the organization? You’re far more likely to spot it when you’re walking about than you are in a staff meeting.

30 or 40 years ago this was called “management by walking around”. But what I’m talking about is far more nuanced than merely strolling through the organization with a clipboard and a checklist.

It’s about taking a genuine interest in your people where ever they gather and acting on that interest to lead in and among them.

And it all starts by just showing up.

What leadership gains have you made by simply showing up?


How Leaders Know When to be an Optimist, Realist or Pessimist

Updated from October 21, 2013 post

As a leader are you supposed to be an optimistic, a pessimist, an idealist, or a realist?

The answer is “yes”.

The key is knowing when to be which.

This is not about being inauthentic.

The reality is, in some circumstances a leader must be a grim-faced pessimist, while in others it requires being a cheery-faced optimist.

How do you know? Here’s a basic guideline to help you navigate this.

1.   A leader must be a PESSIMIST when…

…making financial forecasts in a challenging season.

When the financial fortunes of the organization are at stake it’s time for the leader to put on the demeanor of a pessimist.

Perhaps a better word than pessimistic is “cautious”. Any leader who has led a turnaround will tell you that the first step is to stop the bleeding by taking a worst-case scenario approach to budgeting.

2.   A leader must be a REALIST when…

…developing the team.

A leader must not only be committed to the development of the team, the leader must also be ruthlessly realistic when it comes to the potential of each team member.

Nothing will crush the spirit of a rising leader quite like giving them too much responsibility too soon. Instead, effective leaders must be realistic when it comes to each one’s potential, and then design their development plan accordingly.

3.   A leader must be an IDEALIST when…

…casting vision.

Ideals have gone out of fashion in our culture. But effective leaders must embrace the ideals of their organization’s mission and vision and describe them with authentic passion.

Why does the organization exist? What difference will it make in the world? These are the organization’s ideals, and the leader must espouse them eloquently and proudly.

4.   A leader must be an OPTIMIST when…

…building a healthy culture.

When the going gets hard, the team wants to know essentially one thing: “Is all of this work worth it?”

The leader’s job is to remind the team that, together under God, things are going to get better…That the mission is worth pursuing…and that success will come.

The point is, effective leadership requires knowing when to be pessimistic, realistic, idealistic or optimistic.

Can you learn this skill?

I’d be optimistic about that.

What have you learned about being an optimistic, idealistic, realistic or pessimistic leader?


3 Surprising Truths about Leading Leaders

Updated from September 30, 2013 post

One of my most embarrassing moments as a leader has turned out to be one of my most important leadership lessons.

It taught me that, if you’re going to be a leader of leaders, there are three vital principles that must be embraced.

I had been assigned with a relatively simple task during my first week as executive pastor of a large church in Canada.

My assignment? Lead an off-site retreat of our senior pastoral team.

This team of highly seasoned leaders were gathered around me, waiting for my opening words. I knew we should open in prayer, so I shrugged at this group of 20 or so leaders and said, “Why don’t you break into groups and spend time in prayer.”

My reasoning was sound, or so it seemed to me. “These are leaders; they don’t need me to tell them how to organize a time of prayer.”

Several awkward moments of shuffling about ensued, and eventually a few muffled words of half-hearted prayer could be heard being whispered about the room.

There was no energy. There was no unity. There was no momentum.

It was, to put it mildly, a less than auspicious debut of my season as a leader of leaders.

But as with any setback, there were leadership learnings to be gleaned. And in this case I came away with three vital principles that must be embraced in order to become a leader of leaders:

1.  Leaders want, and expect, to be led.

Leaders more than anyone understand the value of good leadership. And they look for it in those who step forward to lead them.

2.  Leaders respond to leadership language.

Instead of such a vague, meandering opening, I should have addressed them with leadership language like this: “Team, there are opportunities before us that will only be realized by the mighty hand of God.”

3.  Leaders demand clarity.

Instead of “break into groups and spend time in prayer” I should have said, “Break into groups of 3 and spend 10 minutes praying for these 4 items…”

If you’ve been given the opportunity and responsibility to lead a group of leaders, don’t shrink back. Lift your leadership to the next level and lead them well.

You could be amazed at the passion of their response.

What have you learned about leading leaders?


4 Ways Leaders Turn Conversations into Strategic Learning Opportunities

How do leaders turn a conversation into a strategic learning opportunity?

For a room full of leaders this week in downtown Chicago, that was the lesson on full display during the annual Global Leadership Summit (GLS) debrief.

From across the United States, many of the host pastors from the approximately 300 GLS sites gathered to discuss learnings from the 2014 event, held August 14-15.

But under the careful leadership of Bill Hybels, they also had front row seats for a leadership clinic on how to turn a conversation into a strategic learning opportunity.

Specifically, they saw Bill demonstrate four vital feedback skills.

1.  Affirm everything affirmable

As soon as the debrief session opened these leaders wanted to tackle every element of the Summit which could be improved.

But before he would allow the conversation to go there, Bill insisted that we take time to chronicle everything that had gone right.

The payoff is a much more well-rounded, and accurate, view as to what actually transpired.

2.  Ensure candor and kindness

Bill made the ground-rules abundantly clear. Feedback was to be provided with utmost candor. This would be a room of truth-tellers.

That said, it would also be a room of kindness. Individuals would not be attacked; only ideas would be under the microscope.

With that established the free-flow of opinions became rigorous, and safe.

3.  Discern what is actionable immediately

From time to time an idea would be shared that required no further debate or consideration.

All that was required was action.

“I think we can move on this right away. Would you all agree?” Bill would say.

Leaders never miss a chance to nail an immediate action step.

4.  Discern what you need to let simmer for a while

Several times during the debrief an idea would be raised which sounded good, but which wisdom dictated required further consideration before being acted on.

Bill demonstrated that leaders must have the discernment to know when an idea needs this extra seasoning.

Leaders have dozens of conversations every day.

But effective leaders know that, with a little intentionality, you can gain far more than a simple exchange of pleasantries.

Try employing these skills that Bill displayed with such mastery.

You might just discover a leadership nugget in the conversation.

How do you get the most leadership milage out of your conversations?


3 Reasons NOT to Accept that New Leadership Role

Updated from August 29, 2013 post

Before you jump at that new leadership position you’ve been offered, consider three reasons you should consider staying right where you are.

I once interviewed a leader in his mid-30’s for a position in the large church where I served as executive pastor.

He was bright. He was professional. He was educated. He was personable.

But something on his resume concerned me.

“Tell me about your leadership experience,” I said to him.

“Well,” he began with a sense of confidence. “I have 15 years of leadership experience.”

I looked back at his resume.

“I’m not so sure about that,” I stated slowly. “You’ve worked in 5 different churches so far, correct?”

“Yes,” he said.

I looked up from the resume and said, “Well, it seems to me you don’t really have 15 years experience. It seems that you have what others have called ‘ three years experience, repeated five times’.”

This leader was so talented, it was no wonder that every few years he would receive job offers from other ministries. But the fact that he seemingly accepted these offers each time meant that he was missing out on a critical component of a leader’s development.

He was missing out on longevity.

You see, there are certain elements in a leader’s development that only accrue when one has remained in the same organization for six, seven, eight years or more.

When you stick it out in your leadership role over a long period of time, you benefit by developing:

  • Fortitude

Leadership can knock you around a bit. Staying in the same leadership role for the long haul can “toughen you up” as you survive the hard times.

  • Deep loyalty

Anyone who has remained in a leadership role over many years has learned to develop fierce loyalty to those they lead, and those they lead up to.

  • Time-tested momentum

There’s just something that happens several years into a leader’s time that produces exponential results. And you only realize these results when you stay in your role over time.

My point is not that you should never look for greener pastures. Just be sure to factor in your own development before you jump at that next offer.

You might develop most by staying right where you are.

How has longevity (or frequent movement) affected your leadership?


4 Signs You Should Drop Your BHAG

Updated from August 26, 2013 post

Everyone loves a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, but sometimes you should drop it and play Small Ball.

When Jim Collins introduced leaders to the idea of the “Big hairy audacious goal” (BHAG) in his 1994 classic, Built to Last, he changed the vocabulary of leaders everywhere.

Almost overnight leaders became obsessed with coming up with the BHAG for their company, church, or organization. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to cast a vision for a dream that was outlandish, fantastic and, indeed, audacious.

Perhaps you’re one of them.

And perhaps you’re one of the countless leaders who has been trying relentlessly to conjure up a BHAG, only to find that sometimes it just doesn’t seem to come together.

It could very well be that the problem is that not every season is ripe for a BHAG. Sometimes you need to play “Small Ball”.

In baseball, Small Ball is a strategy in which a team strives to win not by making big extra base hits, but merely by methodically, and consistently, getting on base and advancing runners.

Sometimes leaders need to recognize when it’s time to set aside the BHAG, and to focus on Small Ball; moving forward by regularly and consistently racking up small “wins”.

It means knowing when to cling to a goal to “Plant 20 new churches by 2020!” (BHAG), versus “Growing our existing church every year by 10%” (Small Ball).

It means knowing when to hang on to the plan to “Hold a stadium outreach event by next summer” (BHAG), versus “Training every adult in our church in personal evangelism” (Small Ball)

When should you consider a Small Ball strategy? There’s no hard rule on this, but you should at least consider a Small Ball approach when:

  • Your BHAG just isn’t galvanizing your people,
  • Your BHAG is distracting your team from immediate opportunities,
  • You haven’t seen meaningful progress towards your BHAG in some time.
  • You are already seeing more momentum being generated from small wins than you are from your BHAG

BHAGS can be very important, so don’t drop yours on a whim or at the first sign of struggle. But if your BHAG just isn’t catching fire with your people, consider whether now may be the time for a change in tact.

Because your biggest wins might not come from a grand slam, but from just getting on base.

How have you leveraged small wins to generate momentum?


What to do When the Things That Drove You Crazy No Longer Drive You Crazy

Updated from July 29, 2013 post

What have you come to accept as “normal” that used to drive you crazy?

 Take a moment and think about this.

Think back to a stalled project that at one time drove you bonkers. But now you’ve just gotten used to its sluggish performance.

Think back to that section of worn out, wrinkled up carpeting in the lobby that made you cringe every time you walked by. But now you hardly notice its dilapidated condition.

Or what about the staff person whose toxic attitude infuriated you to your core? But now their ongoing negativity has just become part of the culture.

The term for what you’ve experienced is “habituation”.

And left unchecked, this can be deadly for leaders.

Habituation is natural. It occurs when a person becomes increasingly desensitized to things that used to provoke a reaction.

And chances are, you have become habituated to some things that used to drive you positively up the wall. And the more things you get habituated to, the more your organization, your church or your team is going to feel stuck.

But just as you can drift into habituation, you can also fight your way out of it.

In my experience, these are the three steps to get you started:

1.  Act like a consultant

Take a day or two, and show up at your own organization as if you are a consultant, hired to come in with fresh eyes.

There’s a good chance you’ll see more than one cringe-inducing element.

2.  Unleash your senior team

This is a great leadership team exercise. Ask your team the same question that started this post- “What have you come to accept as “normal” that used to drive you crazy?”

They’ll have a ball with this assignment. And you’ll discover a lot.

3.  Ask brave questions

Talk to people in your organization whom you can trust to give you straight answers. Ask them to point out anything that you have left unchecked for too long.

Be prepared for harsh, but important, truth.

Don’t be surprised if some of those things that used to drive you crazy are suddenly driving you crazy again.

But that’s a pretty good place to start driving change.

What have you come to accept as “normal” that used to drive you crazy?