Abraham Lincoln

Prepare for what’s next

Don’t settle for just being great today, prepare to be awesome tomorrow. When the next opportunity arrives make sure your name is on it.

Describe the future. No one can get the future 100% right, and the truth is you don’t have to be perfect here. Those who give it their best effort will be closer than those that just let the future happen to them. Do the research, talk to the experts, look for commonality between the past and the possible outcomes and describe the future in simple ways. Do this and you’ll find that you will be close enough when the future comes to make any needed last minute adjustments.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretzky

Design the plan. Now it’s time to understand what it will it take for you to be where the future is going. I use these three questions in developing my plans: What do I need to know? Who do I need to know? What am I going to do first? The answers to these questions guides the decisions you will make about how to invest your time. Of all the options, which ones prepare you best for the future you have described?

“You have to rely on your preparation and put yourself in a position to succeed.” Steve Nash

Deliver the win. Being prepared removes the doubt, worry and stress of the future. When you’re prepared, you are looking for the future so that you can implement all that you have prepared for. You will succeed because you prepared to succeed.

“I will prepare and someday my chance will come.” – Abraham Lincoln

The future isn’t just more of today.

future-that-we-createYou’re challenged to accomplish something you’ve never done before. When this happens, we’re tempted to find a way to make what we need to do, fit into what we’ve already done. Here’s the issue – some if it might not fit. Sure, you can rely upon your strengths to help you, but you must see the future – the place where you will apply your strengths, won’t be the same as the past.

“The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.”– Peter Drucker

No matter how well you’ve performed in the past, and how far you’ve come, the future isn’t just more of today. It’s different and requires something different.

Create Success. Don’t let the future be the place where you arrive, make it the place you create. Determine where you want to be, and when you want to be there. Believe you will succeed.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

Look Forward.  It’s fine to look back at the past – just don’t stare. Once you take in all that you have done in the past, turn your focus to the future and plan how you’re going to there.

“You can never plan the future by the past.” Edmund Burke

Start Today.  The accomplishment you seek in the future won’t just come someday – it comes with small steps every day. What are you going to do about it today?

“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.” Mattie Stepanek

The Commitment of Leadership

commitment LombardiLeadership is not for the faint of heart. If you want to succeed, plan on making the commitment to being in it for the long haul. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality.”

There is no overnight successes in leadership, but there are steps you can take in the right direction towards success if you are committed to the climb. For every person who climbs the ladder of success, there are a dozen waiting for the elevator.

Now here are the challenges that many face when they look to make the commitment of leadership:

What if I don’t have a complete plan for success? Here is the thing about plans – they always change. If you wait for the perfect plan before you will make the commitment, you will never commit. As long as you have a clear picture of what success looks like when you achieve it, you can start moving in that general direction and modify your plan as you learn more.

“You need to make a commitment, and once you make it, then life will give you some answers.” – Les Brown

What if I don’t have time for a commitment? Here is what I have found in my life. I do lots of things throughout the day, week, month, or year. When I choose to make a commitment to something I free up time to fit it in by not doing other things that don’t lead to success.

“I have the time for anything I am committed to.”

I am not sure I’m up for a long-term commitment. Actually a long-term commitment is nothing more than a set of daily activities that leads to long-term success. Take this one day at a time, one action at a time.

The only way saying ‘ I will’ leads to ‘I did’ is through the daily practice of ‘I do’” – Denis G. McLaughlin

Leaders bring tomorrow’s solutions

future possibilitiesIf you want to be successful don’t try to solve tomorrow’s challenges with today’s solutions. That is why leaders bring tomorrow’s solutions into view to solve tomorrow’s challenges.

How do leaders bring tomorrow’s solutions? What are tomorrow’s challenges that need solutions?

These are the questions that leaders must answer as they look around the corner for emerging risks and opportunities.


In an ever-changing world, here are the four things leaders must do to bring tomorrow’s solutions:

Predict – the future scenarios. You can’t predict the one thing that will happen, but you can be prepared when something happens.

The past is a guide but doesn’t always predict the future. Based on what you already know you can visualize what else could happen. Find the common themes in all that possible future scenarios you see.

“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking at the back window.”­ – Peter Drucker

Present – the team with the future goals and the plans to reach them.  Don’t just wait for the future to come true, plan for it and execute. Share the themes of the future you visualized with your team and create plans to succeed through them all.

Success does not come from being sure of what will happen. Success comes from being sure of what you will do if something happens. Remember, the future is not something we enter,the future is something we create. We can control how we respond to risks and opportunities.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”– Abraham Lincoln

Prepare – the team to be ready to succeed. With your vision of the future clear and a plan to achieve success in mind, now it’s time to get ready to respond when the future comes. What skills, people, and information will be needed in when the future comes?

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Prevent – the team from getting off course.  A greater purpose instills a sense of mission in us all. Leaders need to repeat the goals so you don’t retreat from the goals. Leaders are the chief cheerleaders.

“Start strong, stay strong, and finish strong by always remembering why you’re doing it in the first place.” – Ralph Marston

Leading a company the military way

patton on leadershipI was recently asked if a military model of leadership was adequate to run a company.  When I responded seeking the definition of military leadership, I understood why the question was being asked.

There is a misperception of what military leadership really is: marching and drills, marching and drills…This initial response is usually taken from a movie, or television show that focused on basic training (boot camp) where the very beginning of military leadership is formed. Even children’s stories are filled with these ideas: Colonel Hathi’s March (The Elephant Song) from The Jungle Book says it this way: “The aim of our patrol,  Is a question rather droll,  For to march and drill, Over field and hill,  Is a military goal!” 

But the military wouldn’t be successful if this was the full extent of its leadership. The military has eleven principles of leadership.  I have summarized them below with a reference to how each of these is viewed in non-military professions.  You will see from these principles that the answer that a military model of leadership is not just adequate to run a company it is essential.


1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – Learning is a lifelong task that you should continue no matter what you are doing. 

“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.  View life as a continuous learning experience.” – Denis Waitley

2. Be tactically and technically proficient – In whatever business or profession you are in, aim to be the best.

“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” Abraham Lincoln

3. Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare – Take time to get to know them and look out for their health and well being. They will notice you genuinely care about them and probably perform better.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell

4. Keep your soldiers informed – Tell those you follow you what your plans are, accept their insight and suggestions, make them a part of the planning.

“We must open the doors of opportunity.  But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

5. Set the example – In everything you do you must do it well and set a good example.

“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished – Make sure you give clear instructions, ask for feedback on what your followers think you said.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins

7. Train your soldiers as a team – Create community and teamwork.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

8. Make sound and timely decisions – Look at the options and then make the best choice.

“If a decision-making process is flawed and dysfunctional, decisions will go awry.” – Carly Fiorina

9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates – Delegate certain jobs and tasks, training up new leaders.

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important that hiring and developing people.  At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Larry Bossidy

10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities – Align strengths with responsibilities.

“The key to any game is to use your strengths” – Paul Westphal

11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions –Taking responsibility for things is a key trait of a leader

Success on any major scale require you to accept responsibility…In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.”Michael Korda

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.

How do you lead disagreeable people?

disagagree without being disagreeableThere is a difference between being disagreeable and just disagreeing.

Honestly disagreeing is healthy and adds to the growth of a team. Being disagreeable causes strife and turns the team’s attention away from the issues and opportunities that need to be tackled and instead focuses on the actions of the disagreeable person. A leader must resolve this division before it goes too far. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Being disagreeable can take many forms: A disagreeable person can be critical, negative, and even passive aggressive – undermining the success of the team with their actions or lack of action.

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and …don’t let you know.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

This may seem a bit odd, but The key to leading a disagreeable person, is to help them turn into a disagreeing person.

A disagreeing person is one who openly and professionally shares their opinion. They offer a dissenting view, alternate ways of achieving the goals, or even different goals entirely. They thrive in the challenging atmosphere of brainstorming sessions, continuous improvement, and strategic planning. Not every view of a disagreeing person is adopted, but many are.

Everyone wants to feel that their views are heard and taken into consideration. Everyone wants to be valued. The difference between being disagreeable and disagreeing is open communication.

Leaders therefore, need to offer an environment where the opinions of the disagreeable person are heard and acted upon based on their merit. They are more used to not sharing their views publically and acting upon them privately. You will now have to draw out their ideas into the open during meetings and brainstorming sessions and make a point to give them credit for sharing their disagreement and when their ideas are acted upon.

You will show the disagreeable person what disagreeing people have learned, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Leaders: Troubling times require you to be present

presence of one we trustWhen there is trouble leaders need to be present.  Your team doesn’t want to receive an email or a phone call.  They want to know you really understand the situation and care enough to help – in person.

A team in crisis doesn’t want the one way communication of email instructions.  Even with emoticons and well placed capitalization there is no real EMOTION in an email 😉

A team wondering what to do next doesn’t need your cell phone call from the airport while you are catching a flight in the other direction.  They know you are busy, but imagine how busy you will be if this situation doesn’t get handled the right way.

Your team needs help.  You need to be there.  Here’s why:

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Lead from the inside out – this time it is all about you

Sometimreal riches are insidees leaders need to look inside and reflect on themselves. Your actions may be visible and impactful to everyone around you, but are they still connected to the core of your leadership strength – the desire to help others succeed? What happens when your leadership focus slowly switches from each individual succeeding, to your personal success in making that happen? Albert Einstein once said, “It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”

Here are three key areas that leaders should focus on as they lead from the inside out:

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The Anam Cara – Friend of the Soul

My family and I went to an Irish goods store over the weekend.  As I skimmed through limerick books, I was reminded of the many stories my Irish Grandmother told.  I bought a book titled Anam Cara, a Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue.  The name comes from the early Celtic tradition of a person who acts as a teacher and guide; that person was called the Anam Cara, or friend of the soul.  The book has many fables that teach Celtic lessons on various aspects of life.  One fable called “The King and the Beggar’s Gift” taught that difficult situations are often disguised opportunities for growth.

As I am reading Anam Cara, I am reminded of one of American History’s most famous leaders, Abraham Lincoln.  It is said that among his favorite books growing up were the Bible, Aesop’s Fables and The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Each one of these great books taught its lessons through parables, fables and allegories.

We know that Abraham Lincoln was a great story-teller. He often disarmed a crowd or an adversary with a folksy tale in which they could see themselves and understand his point of view.

As a leader, you are your team’s teacher and guide.  If you want to be their friend of the soul, their Anam Cara, you have to connect with them personally.   Following the path of great leaders before us, I recommend using parables, fables, or allegories to teach and guide.  Nothing gets to the heart like a well told story.

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