Monthly Archives: March 2014

Does a leader need power to lead?

leadership power - John MaxwellThe simple answer –Yes, leaders need power to lead.  John Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Therefore, you need power in order to influence others if you want to be an effective leader.

The follow up question that we will explore is what kind of power does a leader need to lead?

There are two kinds of leadership power: those that fade and those that last.

Leadership Power that fades

These are the most often discussed, and unfortunately sometimes the most relied upon forms of Leadership Power. Let’s look at them and see why their effectiveness fades away in time if they are the only method used to influence others.

The Power of Position.  In this case, the leader has influence because of their position in the company.  They are in charge and can ask others to take actions based on that position.  This type of power fades as there is no sense of commitment or connection to a greater good. People only follow because they have to, not because they want to. 

“Leadership is action, not position.” – Donald H. McGannon

The Power of Perks.  All leaders can give away perks: raises, bonuses, vacation etc… None of these is bad in and of itself but realize as a leader, you will get the behavior you incent.  Your influence with this type of power fades as the commitment isn’t to the ultimate outcome, but to the immediate individual benefits.  When you rely too much on rewards you may find that people are working only for their rewards, which means decisions may be made that do not reflect the best answer for the team, company, customer, or shareholder.

 “The reward of a thing well done is having done it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Power of Punishment.  This is the opposite of the power of perks.  This enforces consequences for behavior you don’t want.  While your influence with this power will lead to short-term compliance, it will eventually create an atmosphere of insecurity and fear. People will become so afraid to make a mistake they will cease to make decisions and only do what they are specifically told by the leader.

“Nothing is more deflating to morale than to have a poor outcome pinned on someone who doesn’t deserve it.  It lacks integrity and overvalues the outcome at the expense of the people.” – Tony Dungy

Leadership Power that lasts

The types of Leadership Power which last, are not often seen as power.  In Leadership Power that lasts, the power is shared with others and not maintained by the leader.

The Power of Empowerment.  The true measure of a successful leader isn’t what they have – power, possessions, prestige – it is the legacy of empowering other leaders to achieve their own success.  Your success as a leader is defined by how many successful leaders you have helped grow.  Your influence as a leader will grow because of the success of those you influenced.

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

The Power of Character.  This is who you are inside.  Your intentions and your actions point in the same direction – helping others’ succeed.  With the power of your character you can influence people because of their respect for you.

“A leader…has authority due to their role, but their positional power will not bring about good for individuals or organizations unless it is backed up by the capital of character.” — Dan B. Allender

The Power of Conduct.  As a leader you and your team will face many tough circumstances.  You will need to influence them to not just survive, but thrive through these times.  Your conduct will be the key to their success.  When you remain calm, focused on the vision, and help your team find a plan the power of your conduct will be evident.

 “Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is our power.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Lead with integrity

toungue in mouth and shoeYour example is the best teacher of integrity for those who are watching – and believe me, your followers are watching.  They may hear every word of advice you give, but unless they see you living out your own advice it won’t stick. 

“Make sure the tongue in your shoes goes the same direction as the tongue in your mouth.” – Ken Whitten

Your example is also the best teacher for yourself.  Unless you keep the bar of success high; you will never know what you are capable of achieving.

“Remember that the bigger the goal, the stronger a person you must become to achieve that goal.”  – Robin Sharma

What does it mean then to lead with integrity – even when you don’t want to, have to, or need to?

What if I don’t want to lead with integrity? It will be difficult. You will face challenges.  Isn’t there anyone else who can do this?

There are times in our careers and our lives, when we wish someone else would step up and lead.  “Don’t I deserve to just sit this one out?” We say. You’re in charge for a reason my friend – you are good at it.  You are gifted in your ability to lead.  If you are the leader, then you have to lead. 

“Leadership – it’s not about rights, it’s about responsibility.”  – Denis G. McLaughlin

What if I don’t have to lead with integrity? No one will know. It’s only once and you will do it next time.

Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Brian Alden learned how to lead by studying great leaders like Lombardi.  He found that “Leaders with a history of success have developed a habit of working hard to achieve their success.” Don’t make choices based on other’s knowledge of your choices; make them based on your habit of hard work.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

What if I don’t need to lead with integrity? Everyone will understand. No one expects you to be perfect.

It’s true that no one really expects anyone to be perfect, you included.  Will everyone understand if I make a mistake? For the most part, yes.  But you want your legacy to be more than “He wasn’t perfect.”  I would rather my epitaph be something like, “He always gave his best effort.”  If I let someone down, it won’t be because I didn’t try to do my best. That is the example I want to set for my team.

“The proof of your character comes through in the lives of those on whom you have an impact.”– Denis G. McLaughlin

Leaders: Faced with an ethical dilemma?

ethics picture Potter StewartHow do you lead when you are faced with a decision where the option that works in favor of the bottom line is not the most ethical?  Here are three thoughts that will lead you to the right decision:

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, former said, “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”  A man who invested twenty-three years of his life deciding cases on the foundation of law, had strong opinions on doing the right thing not just the lawful thing. 

Never decide what you should do based on what you can do – it’s not the same.  Your decisions should always be based on what is right for all involved.  This is not to say that everyone will like your decision.  But if you can say you were honest and forthright in your dealings and provided opportunity for everyone to succeed, than you did what you should.

You’re not just in this for the money – it’s about the people.  Singularly focusing on maximizing short term profits is not the sole intent of business.  Are you providing a balanced life for your employees?  Are you giving back to the community in which you conduct business?  Are you’re shareholders proud to be associated with your company? You could even ask if people are seen wearing t-shirts with your company logo embroidered on it – now that says something.  What is the total impact of your company’s existence?

 “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”­ – Henry Ford

 Short term gain achieved with less than ethical behavior will lead to long term failure.  Never underestimate the memory of people who were impacted by unethical decisions – either benefiting or losing in the end.  No matter the outcome, you will have lost the trust and confidence of everyone involved.  If you made an unethical choice in this area, what’s to stop you from making an unethical choice somewhere else?

 “If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.” – Abraham Lincoln

So, how do you lead when you are faced with a decision where the option that works in favor of the bottom line is not the most ethical? You make the ethical decision – end of story.

Are people born leaders or nurtured?

joy of leadership is helping others succeedWe all know larger than life leaders.  Those we think are born leaders.  They are frequently on television, the internet, and newspapers.  We have studied them in the history books.  They are the Presidents, CEOs, Head Coaches, and Generals that command our attention.  If you are not just like these leaders, then you must not be a born leader.  So how did they get where they are?

Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”  I agree with Lombardi, that leaders are truly made.  Here are a few ideas on what makes great leaders:

True leadership lies in guiding others to success.”– Bill Owens

A good objective of leadership[ is to help those who are doing poorly to do well, and to help those who are doing well do even better.” – Jim Rohn

“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders.” – Robert Townsend

Management is about arranging and telling.  Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.”– Tom Peters

We are all gifted with abilities that if used to their fullest can help others succeed – and that is the definition of leadership.  The nurturing comes in the seeing of what true leadership really is.

“No one is born as a leader, but everyone is born to lead.”


Learn from past mistakes – preferably someone else’s.

learn from the mistakes of othersFred Brooks, the man who managed the development of IBM’s System/360 family of computers knows a thing or two about learning from mistakes, he wrote the book on it. Brooks wrote about his experiences managing systems development at IBM in the book The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering. 

The book coined what is known as “Brook’s law,” which states that “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” Brooks discovered this law when he himself added more programmers to a project falling behind schedule, then concluded that it delayed the project even further. Using this and other examples of what he learned in his career, Brooks is quoted as saying, “Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.”

What are you doing to prepare yourself for leadership?  Making some mistakes on your own is inevitable and one way to learn; but learning from the mistakes of others is the easier route. 

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live enough to make them all yourself.”


The four biggest mistakes that leaders make.

mistake-quote photography negativesYou’re the leader.  You are in charge.  Your team depends on your decisions.  Maybe the entire company depends on your decisions.  Can you afford to make mistakes?  Truth be told, leaders can’t afford to not make mistakes.

Read on to see what great leaders say are the four biggest mistakes that leaders make:

Not trying for fear of making a mistake. “Because that is the way we have always done it.” That has to be one of the most annoying answers to the question, “Why do we do…that way?” What the person is really saying is, “I am afraid to try something new because it might not work.”  Remember, if you are trying to improve you are trying something new, different, hopefully better.  Of course you will make some mistakes, that’s what happens when we try to do something we haven’t done before.  If you don’t try something new, you won’t have the opportunity to improve

One thing is certain in business: you will make mistakes.  When you are pushing the boundaries, mistakes are inevitable. Richard Branson

Giving up after making a mistake.  Ok, so you tried something new and it didn’t work as you had hoped – so what.  You are still farther ahead than before you tried because you now know what doesn’t work.

I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward. Thomas Edison

Not admitting when they make a mistake.  Make it part of your culture to try new things and openly review the outcomes together as a team.  Like football teams that review yesterday’s game film to look for opportunities to improve, make this a positive event that is used to make the next attempt better. 

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes.  It’s best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”­ – Steve Jobs

Not learning from their mistakes.  Mistakes are only useful if they are used as a means for improvement.  Making mistakes is fine, repeating the same mistake is not.

The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way. Dale Carnegie


Leadership is the life you live.

jack welch leadershipA life of leadership is focused on helping others grow so they can achieve their maximum potential.  That sure sounds altruistic.  Well it’s more than that.  Read on to find out how living a life of leadership will bring your personal success.

Living a life of leadership brings simplicity.

“Life is complicated.”  Have you ever had someone use that as an explanation for why some things just aren’t working out in their life? Or worse, has someone used it to dodge responsibility for something they did in your life?  It’s true, life can be complicated; so un-complicate it.

Living a life of leadership lets you live a life of simplicity.  I take a very simple approach to life.  I view the world through one lens.  I don’t have family glasses, work glasses, and faith glasses.  I have one prescription which brings my entire life into focus. For me, there is no such thing as work-life balance, there is just your life and you have to balance everything. I look at every aspect of my life through a leadership lens. 

John Maxwell wrote a book titled There’s no such thing as business ethics.  He follows that up with the statement, “There’s just ethics.” It’s much simpler to know what to do when your actions don’t depend on your activity.

Albert Einstein had three rules of work.  The first of these is “… Out of clutter find simplicity…”

Living a life of leadership brings focus.

My goal every day for a life of leadership is just this simple as I said above: helping others grow so they can achieve their maximum potential.   I would like to claim responsibility for this simple statement, but many successful people discovered this long before I did.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” – Albert Einstein

Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King Jr.

These three historic figures who maintained a single minded focus on leadership were powerful forces for change.  While scattered light brings warmth into a room, the power of light focused on a single point through a laser can bring together wounds, or separate metal.  A life of leadership will bring the power that comes from focusing all of your energy on that one goal.    

Living a life of leadership brings success.

A life of leadership has simple goals, and simple goals are easier to attain than complicated goals.  When you achieve your goals each day, you live a satisfied life.

“A well-spent day brings happy sleep.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Helping others succeed is easier than many people think, but is not something that is easy to find.  People take notice of those that notice them.

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” – George Washington Carver

If you want to be known for something, there is nothing better than to be known as someone who helped others become the best they can be. 

“Build your reputation by helping others build theirs.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

How to keep long time employees engaged

building bloks of employee engagementAccording to Gallup’s 2013 employee engagement report, on average only 30% of employees are engaged at work, 50% are not engaged, and 20% are actively disengaged. To put this in perspective, imagine that the average company is a rowboat with ten people on board trying to row to shore.  This would mean that only three people are rowing the boat back to shore, while five people have their oars out of the water, and two people are rowing out to sea.  Not exactly a formula for success.

Why doesn’t everyone row in the same direction to help the team win?  Why isn’t everyone engaged?

Here are the five keys to keeping long term employees engaged:

The first key to keeping long term employees engaged, is to treat everyone as a long term employee.  Is there a difference in engagement between the newer employee and the long term employee?  According to Gallup, the answer is yes.   What surprised me is the definition of long term employee.  Engagement scores are the highest during the first six months of employment and from that point forward scores drop by 10 percentage points, and on average never recover.

“The relatively high engagement levels of workers with tenure of less than six months may reflect a “honeymoon” effect in which employees’ initial excitement about being a part of their new organization counteracts any preliminary negative impressions.” – Gallup

The second key to keeping long time employees engaged is a diligent focus on engagement.  Companies that consistently focus on engagement with their employees can reverse the declining trend after the first six months.  Scores increase across employee tenure for companies that have a multi-year commitment to employee engagement.  In fact after nine years of dedicated focus, engagement scores are slightly above 60 – twice the average score. 

“Engagement increases at all levels of tenure as employees continue to participate in focused initiatives to improve their engagement.”  – Gallup

The third key to keeping long time employees engaged is to assign accountability. Senior executives from the CEO down have to be dedicated to employee engagement and make it a priority for them and their managers.  Don’t just talk privately in meetings about its importance.  Document your expectations in annual goals; assign due dates to each step of the process and track progress; make action steps short term and achievable; and most importantly, coach your managers on how to achieve employee engagement.

Transformation occurs at the local level, but it only happens when the tone is set from the top down.” – Gallup

The fourth key to keeping long time employees engaged is to focus on developing their strengths. The difference in engagement of employees in organizations that focus on employee’s strengths versus those that focus on their weaknesses, or worse ignore their employee’s development is staggering.  It won’t be a surprise to anyone that organizations that ignore their employees have a very low engagement score – it’s 3%.  But some may say that focusing on helping employees improve their weaknesses is a good thing, and the engagement score proves that right – it’s 45%.  But when companies focus on developing their employee’s strengths engagement increases to 61%.

If we go back to the boat rowing example in the beginning of this article we also looked at the level of active disengagement – this is when people work against the goals of the organization.  Now here is when the difference in focusing on weakness versus strengths really shows results.  When focusing on improving weaknesses, 22% of employees are still actively disengaged.  But when focusing on developing strengths, only 1% of employees are actively disengaged.

“The best opportunity for people to grow and develop is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel, and behave, and then build on those talents to create strengths.” – Gallup

The fifth key to keeping long time employees engaged is to make all employees part of the solution.  If you want your employees to be engaged, then engage them in the discussion.  I always say if you want to know something than ask someone who knows.  It’s really that simple.  Talk to your employees, ask them what they need to be engaged.  The answers can’t come from managers, you need to hear the unique needs of each group.

There are commonalities in answers when questions about engagement are raised.  For instance according to Gallup, “Opportunity to do best” and “mission and purpose” are the strongest factors for retaining employees. But when considering younger generations, “opportunities to learn and grow” is important, while “supervisor cares” is more important for older generations.

Action planning boosts employee engagement because the process itself demonstrates that the opinions of each person on the team matters.”


 Scroll to top