Leaders serve others before self…

“There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, tha makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” 

Alexander Hamilton

The ability to serve a cause, a higher and greater good than oneself, is the ultimate demonstration of commitment and sacrifice. By definition, when you are helping others and putting yourself second, you demonstrate a type and quality of leadership that is all too rare in today’s world.  

A leader’s ability to achieve long-term success is correlated with their desire and ability to serve others before themselves. Those leaders are my heroes.  

The ability to make hard choices defines the leader…

“Doing the easy thing makes you popular. Doing the hard thing makes you a leader.”

Rick Warren

What is the difference between easy and hard? Perhaps one way to look at it is like this; it is easy to focus on what is best for YOU. Hard is concentrating on what is best for OTHERS, despite what it might mean for you…

Committed to your vision – Spartan Pro Day 2020

Last Tuesday, I had the incredible opportunity and blessing to share the day with two great friends and colleagues, David Childs and David Lillard of Spartan Planning and Branding. They are in Greensboro, NC, and were putting the final touches on their 2nd Annual Leadership Symposium aptly named “Spartan Pro Day.” Last year’s inaugural event was a resounding success, selling out and maximizing their venue’s capacity.  

At the beginning of the year, David Childs asked me to be one of the speakers at this year’s event on the topic of leadership, and I was both thrilled and honored to play a small role in their vision of building leaders.

Year 2 was all set to build on last year’s success with space reserved at a venue twice the size, and present company excluded, an incredible roster of speakers. But, as the year progressed, the implications of a world forever changed by the pandemic began to influence their plans and thinking.  

It would have been so easy for them to write off 2020, to say, “due to the state of the world and the restrictions on gathering, we are going to postpone Spartan Pro Day until we can produce the event safely.”  

However, they both realized that there has never been a more critical time to highlight the impact of positive leadership and share content that would be highly powerful and meaningful to their constituents. So they did what great leaders do in a time of crisis and uncertainty. They pivoted to a new direction and held true to their vision of putting on a conference enabling leaders to “Grow Personally. Grow Professionally. Make A Difference.”  

Spartan Pro Day is now a virtual event being held over the next three weeks, AND it is FREE OF CHARGE for anyone that would like to participate and grow.   

Leadership is having a vision, and then doing whatever it takes to make that vision become a reality. As John Maxwell writes, “leadership is influence,” and Spartan Pro Day was an incredible influence on me, and I am grateful to have played a small role in bringing their vision to life.

If you are interested in enrolling, check out the link below. As a sports fan and a Carolina Panthers fan, I particularly loved the stories shared by Mick Mixon in his “Tales from the Press Box” session.

Spartan Pro Day – Register Here

Can you free your dreams with superpowers?

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”

John Scully

There is nothing more joyous than seeing the world through the eyes of your children. The wonder and joy they express when learning something new is simply incredible to witness. Just tonight my three-year-old son’s dinosaur balloon was caught at the top of the ceiling and he asked me to help him get it down. His exact words were “Please Daddy can you get my dinosaur balloon? It’s stuck, can you use your superhero powers to get it for me?”

In his mind, my ability to get the balloon was a superpower. He could see a future where he got his balloon back and figured out a way to make it happen.

Perhaps we all need to be a bit more like children. We should attempt to see the world the way we want it to be and then use or find some superpowers to make it happen…

pexels-photo-1148998.jpeg
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Fostering a “what if” mindset is the key to creativity.

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

Edward de Bono

Things look different when you see them through a different lens or perspective. The ability to be creative requires that one find a way to let go of the known, the safe, and the established ways of doing things. Instead you have to be relentless in looking for connections that aren’t there yet. Opportunities to build a bridge between seemingly unrelated items and create value that didn’t previously exist.

One of the best ways that I have found to accomplish this is by simply observing and asking questions. One must view the world through a lens of intense curiosity and a “what if” mindset. It is equally important to have a mindset of humility that allows one to ask questions and listen for both what is said, and unsaid in response.

The bottom line is that creativity requires one to surrender the desire to keep things the way they have always been. What if has to become your favorite way of thinking.

top view photo of white bond paper near coloring materials
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

You have to be all in…

“Leadership on the other hand is about creating change that you believe in.”

Seth Godin

Before anyone else can buy into your leadership you have to be completely bought in and sold on what it is you are seeking to change. If you don’t believe in it fully and passionately then those you are seeking to influence won’t either. You can’t “fake it till you make it” when it comes to creating change. You have to believe in it with all your heart and soul.

If you don’t then everyone will know and you’ll find yourself not leading anyone at all.

To lead is to serve… Own it…

“On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.”

Jocko Willink

“Extreme Ownership” has become one of my favorite leadership books of late because it does such an exceptional job of capturing and conveying one of the most foundational principles of leadership. If your first reaction is to point a finger anywhere other than yourself you are not a leader, you have surrendered those rights.

Conversely, if you are the first to take the credit and seek glory when there is a win, you are also not a leader. The team creates wins.

So, the essence is when it doesn’t go well, it is your fault. When it goes right, the team gets the glory. This is leadership…

The world needs a little more crazy…

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Rob Siltanen

Are you crazy for seeing opportunities where others do not?

Are you crazy if you think there is a much better way?

Are you crazy if your vision is bigger that the world is today?

Are you crazy if you are discontented with the status quo?

If the answer to any of the questions is “yes” then crazy sounds pretty good to me…

ball shaped blur close up focus
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

When it’s not work…

“If you are working something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

Steve Jobs

When is the work not work? What gets you up early and makes you excited to put in the effort? Are you able to spend the majority of your time pursuing things that excite you in this way?

If not, then why not? What would it take to live the majority of your life pursuing this kind of vision?

Do more of these things and you’ll never work again…

Leave it in the dust…

“Don’t take anything personally. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. Their point of view and opinion come from all the programming they received growing up. When you take things personally, you feel offended and your reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflict. You make something big out of something so little because you have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

The most important words above are these, you have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong.”

Imagine how much could get done if we could leave this mentality in the dust…

activity adventure boy climber
Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

The measuring tape…

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”

John Maxwell

The greatest leaders I have ever worked with did not capture or care about gathering power. These leaders were very much focused on giving it away through empowerment. These individuals were so incredibly effective at their jobs because they knew their real job was to create more leaders who could hopefully become even better than they themselves were.

By contrast, the worst leaders I have ever known or worked with only cared about how they would be perceived by others or about how they could gain more power.

The bottom line is that the most effective leaders measure their success not by looking in a mirror, but by looking through a window onto those whom they serve.

measurement-millimeter-centimeter-meter-162500.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The true essence of leadership…

“No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.”

Warren Bennis

There are so many aspects of this quote that I love. Each sentence carries weight and incredible wisdom and merit. In fact, for me, it is worth digging into each sentence and letting it roll around in the mind and over the tongue like a fine wine. Each sentence builds on the preceding sentiments until you finish with a crescendo akin to a bombastic symphonic masterpiece. (Okay, so maybe that is just a bit too much hyperbole but you get where I am going…)

“No leader sets out to be a leader.” – True leadership is about serving not about becoming served. To become a leader, as I define it, means that you cannot and must not forget that leadership is not about you. It is about those whom you serve.

People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. – How rare and beautiful it is for people to get to be their true and authentic selves in every aspect of life. We all set out this way, and then along the way things change, we begin to amend ourselves to meet the expectations of the world around us. Leaders hold true to their “north star” and manage to maintain their authenticity along the way.

When that expression is of value, they become leaders. – When others see a future vision they also believe in or subscribe to, then leadership occurs. If what you believe in, and value, is valuable to others then they will see you as a leader.

So the point is not to become a leader. – A-Freaking-Men! The best leaders I have ever known or worked with were NOT leaders because of the pursuit of roles or titles, it was because they were pursuing something bigger than themselves and you just naturally found yourself wanting to be part of that thing that they were passionate about.

The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest. – If we are doing less then this, aren’t we choosing to be less than the person that God created us to be? How many people waste their lives in the pursuit of what others say is important? Instead, we should put all our energy into identifying those things we are deeply passionate about and pouring every ounce of ourselves into the pursuit of that vision.

You must withhold nothing. – Anything less than 100% commitment to that which drives and motivates you is a waste of the perfect and precious gifts you have been given.

You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.” – Life is a journey, not a destination. When you focus on becoming the person you were very intentionally designed to be and pour yourself totally and completely into that effort, the journey itself is all the reward you will ever need.

In the end, leadership is a journey, not a goal. It is the ability and opportunity to pursue your God-given passions and do so with people for whom it is a privilege to serve. Be true to yourself, your passions, your opportunities to give back and enjoy the journey. You just might find yourself influencing the lives of others in unique and amazing ways, and that my friends is the essence of leadership…

two people standing in forest
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Clarity comes from three questions…

“My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact.”

Larry Page

A leader has the responsibility to provide the people they serve with the necessary information and clarity so their team members can answer these three questions.

Where are we going?

Where do I fit in?

Why does what I do matter?

Without having the necessary information to answer these questions then the results of any organization will be less than optimal. I believe it is said best in the book of Proverbs, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ Proverbs 29:18

Are you doing everything in your power to help people answer these questions?

Have you offered up your flame?

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

Buddha

How much time and energy do you spend lighting the candles of others? If you are honest with yourself do you spend more time sharing happiness, or expecting to have it shared with you? Do you see yourself as a burning candle looking to ignite others or an extinguished candle waiting to be lit?

How you view the energy you have to share will be incredibly impactful across the course of your lifetime and even more meaningful for those who cross your path. You could literally be the person that lights thousands of candles or you could be the person that breaks the ignition chain.

Do me a favor for just a moment. (I promise this won’t get too weird…).

Read the next four sentences and then close your eyes and think of someone who has impacted your life in some meaningful and amazing way. Go with the very first person that comes to your mind. How did they make this impact? What did they do? What has it meant for you over the span of time since that moment occurred?

Do you have your answers in mind? Good. Now for the tough questions. What would your life be like if this person hadn’t leaned in and offered their candle to light yours? Would you be the person you are today without their influence?

What did it cost them to offer up their flame?

I recommend for you to do two things after you complete this exercise. First, send that person an email, a letter, a text, whatever, just let them know that you appreciate the light that they offered to you. Do it now. Don’t wait for the perfect time because that will never happen.

Second, find someone tomorrow to offer your flame to and then do it again the next day and then again every day after that. It costs nothing but could change the lives of thousands… That’s a pretty good ROI if you ask me.

tealight candle lit up
Photo by Mohammad reza Fathian on Pexels.com

Me or you?

“A boss loves power; a leader loves people.”

Amit Kalantri

Here’s a simple question for you to consider. Has the best boss you have ever had made you feel like it was your time, or their time, that was more valuable?

Which boss are you? Which one do you want to be?

photography of a person pointing on something
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Contagious courage…

“Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

Brené Brown

All behavior is contagious. So you need to do two things. First, have the courage to surround yourself with people whose behavior you want to catch. Second, have the courage to make sure your own behavior is worth catching….

Are you surrounded with Yes or No people?

“Surround yourself with people that push you to do better.  No drama or negativity.  Just higher goals and higher motivation.  Good times and positive energy.  No jealousy or hate.  Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.”

Warren Buffett

There is something special about being around people who push you to be better for the right reasons. These are the people who energize you and motivate you to go and do and be more than you even thought was possible. People like this make life fun, enjoyable, meaningful, purposeful, impactful, and the list goes on and on.

This is in marked contrast to those who might push you, but they do so for selfish reasons. They push you because doing so is all about them. It is what you can do for them that is all they care about. These people make life challenging, empty, miserable, draining and demotivating.

Here is an interesting exercise. Look at each of these sentences and simply rate the people you have surrounded yourself with with a “Yes or No” for that specific aspect.

“Surround yourself with people that push you to do better.

Y/N

No drama or negativity.

Y/N

Just higher goals and higher motivation.

Y/N

Good times and positive energy.

Y/N

No jealousy or hate.

Y/N

Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.”

Y/N

How do the people that you have chosen to surround yourself with measure up to these words? Do your “Yes’s” outnumber the “No’s?”

You have a choice. Pick the people you want in your life. Prune the rest. Life is too short to surround yourself with people that don’t energize and inspire you to become the person you were meant to be.

It’s never just you…

“Almost always, great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.”

Clayton M. Christensen

In order to create something new you must have a mind that is open to concepts, connections and ideas which don’t currently exist. In order to make this happen one must be ready, willing, and able to be wrong.

The people that already “know” all the answers will be limited because they aren’t willing to truly hear what others have to say or think about whatever topic is at hand. Ego clouds the judgement and creates walls and barriers to learning and growth. Ego shuts down the contributions of others and limits creativity. Ego disrupts great thinking because it puts all the emphasis on “who is right,” versus “what is right.”

True genius lies in a deep desire to never be the smartest person in the room.

Real innovation happens when people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives align to solve a common problem.

True genius is the ability to get the right people in the room and aligned towards answering the right questions…

Commit to begin…

“Determine that a thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

Abraham Lincoln

Defeat first happens in the mind. How often do we give up on things before we have even put forth the necessary effort?

I have found the first hurdle, the one of starting something new and unknown, is often the hardest and highest one. Once you have made it over, under, around or through that barrier, then the power of momentum kicks in and the next one is a little easier.

Whatever is is you want to do first commit to begin. Trust that even though everything might not work work out the way you hope and dream, you will be better and richer because of the experiences you gain. The first step is the most important one so lean in and go.

You will always regret the opportunities you didn’t seize…

Change much?

“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete … the things that once were productive and no longer are.”

Peter Drucker

Change can be really hard. In some ways it is so much better when it is forced upon you and there isn’t an option to remain the same.

The best part about forced change is that it frees you to truly grow and when you aren’t encumbered by the past you can embrace an entirely new future.

How can you develop an attitude of becoming intentionally obsolete?

Less is always more…

“Don’t make the process harder than it is.“

Jack Welch

Is the value you provide based on the quantity of the words that you use? In everything you do are you adding value or adding complexity?

Define what needs to be done. Clearly establish the goal. Then do everything within your power to eliminate anything that gets in the way. True leadership is demonstrated through clarification and simplification.

Success isn’t about adding more, it is about taking away what doesn’t matter…

Help make way…

“The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve always been impressed by people who have a clear purpose, a clear vision about where they are going and what they want to achieve in life. Those individuals are the ones that change their worlds, and the worlds of others around them.

I would argue that “making way” is only one of the options that you might have available when one of these people crosses your path.

Another option might be to understand their vision, and if aligned, help make it a reality. The world makes way for people who know where they are going….

Success is never one person…

“One person seeking glory doesn’t accomplish much. Success is the result of people pulling together to meet common goals.”

John Maxwell

I can’t think of anything in life that I have accomplished truly on my own accord without any help or assistance from others. Whether it is through direct collaboration, or by having a network of individuals that have assisted or championed me through life’s journey, every accomplishment has been made possible with the love and energy of others.

Without a supporting cast of people who pitch in and help along the way there are no goals, common or otherwise that can be achieved. We are all here to help serve others and success is being able to unite and work together on work worth doing.

‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.’ Philippians 2:4

Bring the heat!

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

Roald Dahl

How many things in life do we do with little or no energy? Why do we do them at all? I can think of many things that are just general “administrative” tasks that need to be performed as part of the whirlwind of life. Things that just have to get done. Period. End of story.

The challenge is how do we guard against an attitude of “just getting it done” and not let that creep into how we approach the rest of our lives? How do we ensure that “white hot and passionate” is how we are living as a rule instead of as an exception?

I suggest that we should be intentional and reflective on how we approach the removal of things that we aren’t fully passionate about. Make a list of how you are going to spend your time today. Mark the things that you are energized to do. Mark the things that are just ho-hum.

Ask yourself this question, “does this thing, the ho-hum just get through it thing, really NEED to be done? Can I skip it?” If the answer is yes then kill it. Why is it even on your list in the first place?

If the answer is no, then take great care not to let that attitude and perspective creep into the things that you are passionate about. Rearrange your schedule, prioritize the energizing work, use your best hours of the day on the things that excite you. Above all else, guard your time that is to be spent on things that ignite your soul with the same passion that you protect your family and those that you love. If you don’t, then you are slowly, but surely, putting out your own fire…

One day…

“If you’re not going to go all the way, why go all.”

Joe Namath

One day you’ll look back and be proud, indifferent, or disappointed in how you spent your time on this earth. Which one are you going to choose? Make that choice today.

Authentic equals vulnerable…

“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

Brene Brown

The question I think of when I read this is “is being your true and authentic self and being vulnerable to expose that self to others worth it if you don’t win?”

For me the answer is an unambiguous yes. It is far better to be your true and authentic self than to be any pale shadow or imitation thereof. Living in an authentic life means to live a life of vulnerability. If you want to be authentic you have to be vulnerable.

No more sabre toothed tigers…

“One of the key qualities a leader must possess is the ability to detach from the chaos, mayhem, and emotions in a situation and make good, clear decisions based on what is actually happening.”

Jocko Willink

The more emotionally engaged one is with a given situation or challenge, the less data-driven and pragmatic you are likely to be. Case in point, there is a lot going on the world right now, and the impact and severity on the lives of others shouldn’t be minimized. However, making decisions based on an emotional response such as fear are far less likely to be well reasoned and rational than those decisions that are rooted in constructive and logical thinking practices.

When the “monkey mind” takes over, and emotions and chaos reign supreme, do what generations of successful leaders have preached across the centuries.

Pause. Breathe. Think.

There is nothing better than a deep breath and a moment of pause to help bring things into focus. If you don’t, then you are letting the reptilian portion of your brain rule your world. That might have worked in the age of sabre toothed tigers, but it doesn’t serve us well in most situations today…

Clean your glasses…

“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery.  It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

I have written several times over the years about the transformational power of practicing gratitude intentionally through the use of a “gratitude journal.” (you can find some of those posts here)

Awareness of all the gifts I have received is a daily practice for me and is something that I have woven into several places throughout my daily routine. I found that I needed to do this to ensure that I find moments of time throughout the day to clear the “smudges” from the glasses through which I see the world. It is just too easy to get caught up in the all the activity and busyness of life and forget how richly blessed we all are.

The world has a way of obscuring our ability to truly see what is right in front of us. The analogy that comes to mind is how a swimmer has to be intentional in cleaning their goggles to ensure that they can see where they are going. If you don’t then the goggles will invariably fog up and you have no idea where you are going. This might not matter much in a pool, but when you are swimming in a lake or the ocean it can make a huge difference.

Regularly practicing gratitude awareness is truly transformational. It legitimately changes how you see the world. It wipes away the fog that gets in the way of your growth and progress.

If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly encourage you to simply start by taking your daily planner, journal, notebook, (whatever system you use to manage your day) and writing down three things you are grateful for when you first wake up. It won’t take long, no more than a minute or two. Look at this list throughout the day. Add to it if you like. Then before bed write down three more things. Bullets are fine. Single words are fine. Again, it doesn’t have to take long. As the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months you will find that how you approach your life will change. Instead of taking so many things for granted, you will have the power to appreciate the richness of the gifts and blessings we each receive on a daily basis.

Life is too short not to fully live it. Be thankful for each day you have and don’t let your glasses or goggles become so smudged that you can’t recognize how blessed you are…

Assume you don’t know everything…

“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Alan Alda

What are those things that you “know” to be true and have complete knowledge of? It should be a pretty short list if you are being honest with yourself.

So if you don’t have complete knowledge of something it is a little easier to disassociate ego from a situation and your need to be right. Remove that filter and assumptions can vanish, and the light can come streaming in…

Instead of…

“Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Theodore Roosevelt

It is easy to spend the finite amount energy we have in our lives worrying about things we cannot control.

Instead of doing our best effort, we try to figure out what is the minimum amount needed to meet the expectations…

Instead of giving praise for what we do have, we compare ourselves to others and what they have…

Instead of focusing on what is right in front of us we worry about what might, or might not, happen…

It can be equally easy to focus on what is right in front of us if we choose to do so. We just have to make the choice to be grateful…

I am grateful that I have an opportunity to use the skills and talents God has blessed me with…

I am grateful for all the gifts and things that I have been blessed with…

I am grateful for the time I have right now to spend doing things I enjoy with people that I care about…

Amazing how gratitude can change your perspective on things…

%d bloggers like this: