Leadership, Do You Seek Excellence Only in Extremes?

leadership-extremesWhen we picture leadership, we often visualize strength, courage and boldness. All worthy traits. Yet great leadership also has its roots in listening, understanding, perspective, good judgment, and balance. This moderation provides a solid base of support for bold leaps that  prevent disasters.

Some leaders focus mostly on the elements of strength and boldness because they mistakenly believe that moderation means mediocrity, (It doesn’t!)  As they seek excellence only through extremes, they destabilize the organization with wild swings and are surprised when the business slides.

Moderation doesn’t mean mediocrity. It’s a balanced approach that builds a strong base of support for bold leaps!”

Leadership:  Do You Seek Excellence Only in Extremes?

As you assess your leadership style, take a deeper look at where you might be falling into these dangerous extremes.

 1. The Myopia of Metrics. Are you leading from metrics? Are you measuring everything in the belief that if you can’t measure it, your organization will have mediocre performance? Metrics are valuable but an extreme view of metrics leads the organization down a dangerous road.

You will lose productivity measuring things that aren’t worth measuring. Your view will be skewed to the comfort of metrics. You will breed a status quo work culture that is afraid of change and innovation because the data isn’t there to prove it’s OK to step into the new.

Everything than can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
~Albert Einstein

Lead from vision and use metrics as one indicator of success. Remember to tap diverse experience, engage employee talent, exercise critical thinking, and use committed action to make the vision come to life. Moderating all these elements is the good judgment of great leadership.

2. The bomb of boldness.
Sometimes bold risks pay off. Boldness can also bomb out when it is actually self-absorbed tunnel vision. Leading without any feedback puts you all in a bubble that can suddenly burst.  Acting purely through hunches is leadership folly. Silencing diverse views detours you from realistic optimism to dreamy-eyed denial.

Have a bold vision. Inspire all to work toward it. Ask and engage great questions, tap critical thoughts and experience. Address the change resistant pessimistic naysayers with clear communication. Yet never confuse great action-oriented questions with complaining. They are distinctly different. Moderating all these factors minimizes risk.

3. The burn of bluntness. When high level leaders interact with their direct reports who are also leaders, they often use the extreme form of honesty — bluntness — and it is  accepted. The premise is that it cuts through obstacles to reach excellence more quickly.

When you use the same bluntness on team members at the staff level, it burns and inflicts emotional scars.  It leaves employees cautious and less willing to engage and take risks. This is not a path to excellence.

Some leaders react to this response by labeling employees as too sensitive. They tell them to toughen up and not take things personally else the organization will wallow in feelings.  How ironic it is that this view is, itself, a feeling not a fact.

The truth is that the more authority and direct responsibility you have for success, the easier it is to accept bluntness.  You can see the bluntness as protective and helpful. You also feel empowered to make changes to prevent additional blunt barbs.  The further you are from the responsibility and authority, the more the bluntness feels like criticism and disdain.

Leaders, moderate your approach to deal with this truth.  With staff, speak honestly with care not blunt with emotion.  Honesty is the key. An example: “Stop being so slow and lazy” is blunt with emotion. “I need you to move more quickly on this …” is honesty with care.

Moderation does not slow excellence. It doesn’t block success. It simply counterbalances risk. It builds a strong base of support out of awareness, information, broad understanding, and critical thinking.  From there, the bold leaps that you make are far more likely to produce excellence and success.

What other extremes detour success & how do you moderate them? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Won’t the real YOU please stand up? – Authentic Leadership

Authentic-LeaderAll any of us want deep down is to be ourselves and to know that those with whom we have a working relationship are the real deal, what to expect from them and that we can trust them.

The Corporate Metamorphosis - It’s 6:00am Monday morning and you’re washing away the last thoughts of the weekend when you were a mother, a father, a partner, the laugh of the party, the bookworm, the sports coach for the local kids’ team. You set your hair in stone, select your corporate power suit, and then in the time between waltzing out your front gate and marching through the revolving glass door, the transition’s complete; you’ve morphed into the corporate you, your corporate avatar. Subconsciously, you manage your avatar, carefully removing unfortunate traces of personality that conflict with the corporate image you wish to project – the image you believe is expected of you and most guaranteed for success.

News Flash – this image is a waste of valuable time and energy. It’s the real you they want, and it’s the real you that is the best manager you can be.

Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership is not disguising yourself to suit a role, it’s using your strengths and weaknesses to connect openly. A centuries-old awareness, the ancient Greeks knew the importance and value of Authentic Leadership: Socrates words, “Know thyself”[i], implored us more than 2000 years ago to learn/discover all we could about ourselves on the path to our ultimate destination.

Leadership success is derived from, open and honest relationships, genuine appreciation and valuation of the input of followers, and commitment to ethical management. Authentic leaders build trust and engender employee engagement through the relationships they build with their team.

“Authentic leaders are self-aware and genuine. Authentic leaders are self-actualized individuals who are aware of their strengths, their limitations, and their emotions. They also show their real selves to their followers. They do not act one way in private and another in public; they don’t hide their mistakes or weaknesses out of fear of looking weak. They also realize that being self-actualized is an endless journey, never complete.”[ii]

Great leaders transition from weekend to weekday seamlessly, not fearing vulnerability, failure or even success.

What Characterises an Authentic Leader?

Authentic leaders lead to their fullest potential, maximising the value in relationships and looking forward to a future with shared success. Authenticity is no simple achievement, and carries no guarantee of great leadership, but is well worth the effort. You need first to understand yourself before you can play to your strengths.

Authentic leaders:

  • put team goals ahead of their own personal aspirations. The team’s success is their success. When the group wins, the leader stands on the podium alongside team mates.
  • act with their heart and intuition. They are comfortable with and not afraid or ashamed to display their emotions.
  • tell it like it is, but with empathy. They’re willing to give you the real, sometimes tough message, but leave you knowing where you stand.
  • focus both on present and future goals, weathering the storm now with the vision to look to the calm seas and potential ahead.
  • have strong self-awareness, critically considering the impact of their behaviour on others.

“He was always impatient and quick to anger. When people brought bad news, he would attack the messanger.so people stopped telling him things. He had no idea he frightened people.

She videotaped him in action and then replayed the tape for him, pointing out the effect his habitual forbidding facial expression had on people. It was a revelation: “when he realised how he was coming across, he got tears in his eyes, ”…[iii]

Recently I undertook the Life Styles Inventory (LSI), a review of my leadership behavioural and thinking styles. The LSI revealed my opinion/perception of my leadership behaviours/thinking patterns was very close to that of my reports, peers and managers, telling me my behaviour is authentic, the real me. It doesn’t automatically make me a great manager. I could behave like a complete prat, know it and have my team know it. That would be authentic. And I wasn’t free of opportunities for improvement by any means, but I am aware of them and have ideas/actions for improving my patterns of behaviour and thought.

SorryThere’s No Leadership Blueprint

When developing personal relationships with other people, as a friend or a partner, we take the time to get to know the real them. We develop rapport, mutual trust, and identify and align our values. We team with them. The most effective personal and working relationships are formed on this basis.

There is no perfect leader or leadership blueprint. There are, however, many great leaders, with many and varied characteristics that reflect their individual personalities.

“During the past 50 years, leadership scholars have conducted more than 1,000 studies in an attempt to determine the definitive styles, characteristics, or personality traits of great leaders. None of these studies has produced a clear profile of the ideal leader. Thank goodness. If scholars had produced a cookie-cutter leadership style, individuals would be forever trying to imitate it. They would make themselves into personae, not people, and others would see through them immediately.”[iv]

You know what? It’s more than ok just to be you. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/05/12/what-is-authentic-leadership/#./?&_suid=139864930292908536648577576342

[iii] Goleman, D 1999, Working with Emotional Intelligence, Bloomsbury Publishing, London

[iv] http://hbr.org/2007/02/discovering-your-authentic-leadership/ar/1

 

Leaders – Be Sure, Not Right!

Leaders-Be-Sure-Not-RightWe live in a society that values being right above everything else. Starting at a young age, we teach our youth that it is better to have the right answer than it is to question, experiment and take risks. This has created an environment where people are scared to be wrong and terrified to fail! Is this why so many leaders are scared to death of being wrong? Business owners and leaders are called upon to make a monstrous number of decisions every day. Throughout my time consulting with businesses, I’ve witnessed leader after leader buckle under the immense pressure of always trying to make the right decision but, is it as important as we think to be right?

Steve Jobs was one of the most respected leaders in business of all time. It was said of Jobs that his strength was not that he was always right but that he was always sure. Leaders can learn a lesson here from Jobs. Sometimes it is more important to be sure then to be right! You are not going to have all of the answers and none of us have a crystal ball. As a leader, you have to collect the information you have available to you (know that it will rarely be as much as you’d like) and make the best decision you can based on what you see in front of you. The key is, be sure in your decision! No one wants to follow a leader who questions their own decisions or worse, can’t make one! If you repeatedly spin your tires when it comes to making a decision and can’t commit out of fear of getting it wrong, you better believe your staff will look for someone else with confidence and posture to lead.

Please understand that I am not telling anyone to be reckless with their decision making power. You still need to do your due diligence. Blindly ignoring your ignorance and moving forward with uneducated decisions is irresponsible and will surely lead to failure. What I do want leaders to realize is that you don’t have to be right all of the time. Actually, I guarantee that you won’t be right all of the time. Seth Godin (author and speaker) said during an interview, “If I fail more times than you, I win!” Seth Godin understands that it is okay to fail. As long as you learn from your mistakes and improve, your business will be better for it. So remember if you are a leader at work, home or in your community, you better get comfortable making decisions and once you have the information needed make a confident decision, be sure and don’t be afraid of getting it wrong.

What can leaders do to make sure they stay sure?

1. Have a crystal clear vision of what you are looking to achieve. Often leaders are unsure in their decisions because they have no clue where they are going.

2. Collect all of the information you need. The difficulty here is that you will rarely be able to have as much information as you would like and everyone around you will have their own opinion on what you should do. Remember, you won’t be able to make everyone happy. The best advice I was given on this topic was that the advisors you use don’t necessarily have to be the most brilliant business minds but they should understand you and your organization’s philosophies and principles better than anyone.

3. Make the decision! Always show posture and confidence when making your decision. Your team needs to feel that you are sure and that there is a reason to follow you. Once the decision has been made the hard part is over.

4. Move forward with humbleness and humility. Those who are reading this I am sure are very intelligent people so don’t take this the wrong way. You will be wrong someday! There is nothing worse than a leader who cannot be humble and practice humility after making a decision that was clearly wrong. When the day comes that you are wrong, admit it, recognize the faults and move forward in the best direction possible.

Good luck to the leaders out there and your future decisions. Remember be humble, confident and most of all be sure! Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Social Media: Vital Tool for Global Leaders

Social-Media-Leadership-LeaderIn my book Paradigm Flip, I explain that “Leadership has never been easy, but the technology available today can help.” Simply put, digital social media is the single greatest tool available to leaders, for maximizing influence.

Twenty-five years ago, if someone offered you a tool to effectively reach thousands of people, instantly, with text, audio and video, where recipients could provide you instant feedback, you’d be amazed. Yet this tool is available to you, for free, today. Common to most leaders are 4 timeless challenges that social media helps solve:

1. Trust

Leaders today face an inherited tax of lacking trust. In an online leadership Q&A session, several thought leaders identified trust as a challenge for leaders. Leaders must prove their trustworthiness.

How Social Media Supports Trust

The leader with integrity speaks a commitment and follows through. Any debates over commitment may be cleared up immediately, directly with stakeholders. Leaders can immediately explain their actions and receive feedback from the community. If the leader does not have sound reasoning for divergence from a plan, they have an integrity problem – not a communication problem.

2. Accountability

Effective leaders must also drive accountability throughout the organization. Prior to digital social media, it was easy for team leads to say one thing and do another. Promises could be lost in translation. There was plenty of opportunity to manipulate or reverse commitments.

How Social Media Supports Accountability

Now, the digitally printed word follows seconds behind the spoken. Furthermore, collaboration tools, with embedded social media capabilities, enable contributors to connect, share, commit and execute quicker than ever before.

3. Prioritization

Most leaders do not lack for ideas. Instead, the problem most leaders face is prioritizing which opportunity to commit limited resources to, first. Unfortunately, the squeaky wheel often gets the oil.

How Social Media Supports Prioritization

In public platforms, like Twitter and LinkedIn, leaders clearly see the top priority of constituents. Whether it’s ratings, +1s or likes on a complaint, demand for action is more easily quantified than ever before.

4. Alignment

Often, in a meeting, a leader receives nodding heads of agreement. Then, post-meeting discussion may divert, with comments like, “they didn’t really mean that…” or “that’s just the issue of the week…”. As a result, alignment can be quickly lost.

How Social Media Supports Alignment

Leave the meeting and send a post about how excited you are, to start. Then, the next day, do the same. Consistently provide updates over social channels and your community will quickly understand this is not just the issue of the week and you did really mean what you said.

Social media offers leaders the opportunity to join the communities of their stakeholders, share more easily, more frequently and receive more direct feedback than ever before. It baffles me that more people don’t recognize this incredible power and potential social media holds for leadership influence. If you want to serve your stakeholders to the best of your ability, open up your social media toolbox and start building solutions to these common leadership challenges.

Are there other leadership challenges that social media can help solve? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Timeless Contents of a Leader’s Toolkit

leadership-management-toolkitLeadership is the ability to make things happen. Given the increasing complexity of the world in which we live in, and the enormous demands placed on leaders, I believe these seven tools will help you maximize your leaderability.

 Vision

Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29: 18

Vision as a picture of the future a leader has in mind which inspires him and he shares it with others for them to feature in bringing it to pass. Being a leader requires you to have a clear vision of the future and being able to communicate it passionately and clearly to others.

Leadership success begins with vision. Walt Disney envisioned a place people can come and have fun, Todd Nielsen thought of a place where people can come together to learn and share their leadership views, and Martin Luther King, jr., dreamed of a world where everyone is equal.

You must endeavor to create a compelling vision, clarify it and market it properly for people to buy-in. The success of your leadership is tied to the actualization of your vision.

Passion

Passion is essential for effective leadership. I have observed great leaders in corporate, religious, academic, political and social organizations, one thing they have in common is that they are very passionate with what they believe in.

Ralph Waldo Emerson rightly said, “Passion is one of the most powerful engines of success. Nothing great was ever achieved without passion.” Leadership is a marathon and passion is the energy you need to finish fine.

Your passion is your passport to progress; make it right.

Confidence

Firm belief in yourself is a key to being a successful leader anytime. It helps you go the way and show the way. Douglas McArthur painted a good picture of it when he said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.”

Confidence is a fundamental basis of leadership. It helps you to stand your ground during challenging times. Self-confidence is not magic; it can be developed.

Communication

To share your vision, inspire others, and sell your products and services, you need good communication skills. To excel in leadership, you must master the art of effective communication. Great leaders are great communicators.

Don’t just communicate; connect!

Communication styles differ from leader to leader. Your body language and words should be topnotch. As a leader, your communication must be clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete and courteous because your ability to communicate and connect effectively raises the bar on your leadership.

Compassion

Compassion is one of the silent but principal qualities of a leader. One grave mistakes people make in life is asking for hands while they have not touched a heart. A leader should be compassionate.

Compassion is the people-centric mindset of a leader that inspires him to aspire and perspire to help others become better. This is not weakness but, strength.

A compassionate leader loves his people and this motivates them to give their best to make his leadership a success. To be a great leader you must shift from “I” to “We” mentality because this helps you show kindness, care, fairness, genuineness and gain trust, respect, loyalty and followership.

Focus

In a world that is constantly accelerating, many people find it difficult to stay focused, we spend energy worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. Leaders are humans and at times they encounter overwhelming situations which can make them go off-course but, focus helps them comeback on track and win in the race. Focus helps you stay true to your leadership goals and discriminate yourself from things that will militate against your success.

FOCUS = Follow On Course Until Successful

Honesty

The quality or fact of being honest gives life to your leadership. Honesty is a veritable tool in building trust between leaders and
followers.  Honesty is one of the great characteristics of effective leaders. This is one quality that is lacking in Nigeria politics and
leadership.

Without honesty one cannot lead with integrity. One place some leaders miss opportunity to display honesty is in handling mistakes. Being honest doesn’t mean you are weak but, it shows you are morally strong. Honesty is a virtue and a mark of
higher-life. It’s a key to becoming a leader of repute.

Leadership is not title but, result. The tools in this toolkit are the arsenal you need to move yourself from a common to an uncommon leader.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

How To RSVP And Embrace Your Role As A LEADER!

Leadership-invitation-rsvpWhether you want to admit it or not, you have the desire to lead.  I believe we all do.  The challenge is that some can’t even define leadership and even some of those that can, struggle to find the right tools in their toolbox to be the leaders they were created to be.

John Maxwell says that “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”  He is right, but my question is, “What kind of influence do you have?”  I have discovered that to embrace your role as a leader requires not only an understanding of what it means to be a leader, but how to take what you know and do something positive with it.  This takes a process.  Let’s explore how this “RSVP” process works.

CAST A CLEAR VISION

There are several questions that need to be asked when creating and casting a vision.  Unfortunately, many of them are often overlooked in the process.  Many times vision is identified by asking, “What do we want to achieve?” but there is much more to it.  Consider asking ALL of the following questions and see if you can add some clarity to your vision:

  • What do you want?
  • Why do you want it?
  • Where would you want to have it?
  • When do you want it?
  • How would your life be different if you had it? and my favorite …
  • Who would you become if you had it?

Have you overlooked any of these in creating your vision?  As a leader, you are responsible to cast a vision.  Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy into what you do, they buy into why you do it.”  If you want others to follow you, they need to know both where they are going and why they are going there.

DEFINE YOUR TRUE PURPOSE

Sustained growth and achievement requires you to be clear on your purpose.  Your purpose, individually or corporately, is going to be fueled by your passion about what you are doing.  This passion comes from within and will provide the inspiration to succeed.  I have found that your purpose can be found at the convergence of three things:

  • What you are best at – your strengths.
  • What matters most to you – the things you love to do, and
  • What you want to do, who you want to do it with, and where you want to do it – your vision.

Identify these three things and your purpose will be found where all three are represented in the activity.

DEVELOP THE RIGHT STRATEGY

This is the area that I see the most mistakes made in executing a successful plan.  Quite often a strategy is developed that the individual or organization is not resourced to achieve.  There is a simple way to determine whether or not you have selected a strategy that will achieve your desired results.

Identify where you are currently investing your time and resources.  Picture it as if you were putting your life into these five buckets:

  • Family
  • Work
  • Community
  • Personal
  • Faith

Now look back at your strategy and see if you have the resources, possibly time or money, to execute the strategy you have identified.  Something else to consider on the road to success; is your strategy serving your purpose and vision?

ACHIEVE THE DESIRED RESULTS

I fully adhere to the idea that we need to start with the end in mind, however, without casting a clear vision, identifying your true purpose and creating the right strategy, you will struggle to attain your desired results.  Completing these first three steps will set you up for success.

Once you accomplish these, achieving your desired results will come down to identifying and executing a solid plan.  I suggest you use the SMART goal process.  In creating your plan, make it:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time Constrained

Doing these things will provide a pathway to influence those around you in a positive way.  To embrace your role as a leader will take work and remember the goal is not the goal, the goal is who you become in achieving that goal.

These principles are discussed in much greater detail in my book, Leadership By Invitation, which happens to be launching this week, but if there is one takeaway for you to gain from this post, let it be that you have within you the ability to be a leader and make a difference in the lives of those around you.  Your challenge is to embrace that role and show up!

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Leadership, Virtue, and Martial Arts – Anything in Common?

Leadership-Martial-Arts-VirtueThe globalization process has an impact on all of us and almost everything we do. It impacts the environment and consequently the way organizations are structured, and how teams are led, and managed. People work together and embody a variety of personalities, as well as a range of ways of doing things. A modern leader is supposed to grasp all of it to lead forward and to predict behaviors, but never to give or take offence due to misunderstanding the cultural issues.

Can such old wisdom that is hidden in martial arts philosophy point to the culturally independent way in leadership? Why, precisely, martial arts? Because martial arts does not differentiate! Being taught all over the globe philosophy remains the same regardless of personal belief, skin color, gender, and ability.

Effortless Leadership

In Nature, everything seems to be done effortlessly, or with the smallest effort, the same that is genuinely used in martial arts. Nature, in spite of dealing with extremely huge things and events, conserves “energy” e.g. big tree growth with little “effort,” the seas do not get tired of waving, birds fly with ease, an ant can hold 100 times its weight and appears to carry it effortlessly. The same principle is used in martial arts: in a fight there is simply not enough time to recuperate unwisely spent energy. You tire, you lose.

Overexertion is damaging also in the leadership process: to spend more energy that is needed is often harmful not only because it represents a physical and intellectual hindrance. When things are done effortlessly the impression is that everything runs smoothly and harmoniously, there is no stopping, no fuss, no dissatisfaction. Most importantly, all and everything is achieved without resorting to giving orders or spending time on extensive persuasion. A well led team should not be a battlefield of egos. In teamwork there is no place for individual victories or defeats.

Leadership from Within

“Trust your friends to beat you so that your enemies cannot,” is a saying in martial arts. Trust is the foundation of any martial arts practice. Like a martial artist, a virtuous leader trusts himself first, then trust his people. Consequently, he is trusted by them.

In martial arts, to effectively carry out an activity a very important issue is to be able to integrate all the power and capabilities of your entire organism. For this, coordination of your body and your spirit/mind is needed. A fist fight is like a bull fight. The toreador is not stopping the bull (the opponent) with his body. That is not even possible. The toreador lets the bull pass and then, at the right moment, he slays the bull with his sword. In business, people have their own ideas, concepts, knowledge, etc., and they all like to excel. A well-meaning leader will take advantage of that, and use it to its highest possibilities.

Leadership Foundation: Virtue

While teams involve collaboration, they are nevertheless led only by one person. And that person has to possess a virtue that comes from within. It cannot be taught and learned by way of “formulae” as suggested in many leadership books and MBA schools.

The principles of martial arts can empower one with extreme capabilities that can be used to different ends in different situations. One can cure, immobilize, even kill – with just the right pressure or by hitting certain places on an opponent’s body. It is a person’s virtue (responsibility) as to how one would use this knowledge. Assuming responsibility is, by all means, one of the most demanding requirements in leadership. It translates into a commitment to complete something. Some people like to hide from responsibility for their deeds, actions and decisions. Virtuous leaders never attempt to absolve themselves from their responsibilities, nor do they impose their value system on others. A leadership by virtue embraces people’s interests, knowledge and their abilities.

So yes, Leadership, Virtue, and Martial arts have plenty in common! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Are You a Truly Successful Leader? Here’s How to Tell!

Leadership-In-The-Home“You have two weeks to live.” The doctor closes the door and leaves you to your thoughts. As you sit there, trying to process what you’ve just heard, what are you thinking about? Seriously. What matters now? With whom will you long to spend your last moments? Doing what?  What will you wish you had done differently? What will you be so grateful you did?

One of the top regrets expressed by terminally ill patients was that they wished they hadn’t worked so hard. “They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.” They “deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

As essential as they are, success and leadership in both community and business still pale in comparison to the consummate importance of leadership in the home. Unfortunately, many smart and talented people passionately pursue leadership at work and passively accept leadership at home. Hence, the thriving careers and businesses… and the failing families.

No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” ~David O. McKay

Even From There—My Story

My dad was gone before I was born. Step dad after step dad; each failed to rise to the role of a true leader in the home. I ended up out on my own at an early age; hurting, struggling… desperate. I vividly remember one cold, lonely Christmas Eve, sitting by myself in a very dreary, despicable place. On a night when we should be celebrating with family, I sat alone watching my breath in the frigid air. The loneliness was almost more than I could bear. That night became one of the turning points in my life.

I DECIDED I would have a family that would always be close together. A family that would be created on the highest principles and values and would be filled with love and happiness. A family that would be built with an unbreakable bond. I was determined to create a fantastic family, to be a leader in my home;  and I was ready to do whatever it required.

I went after it like a cheetah chases a gazelle. I read and studied voraciously, I still do. I observed and interviewed both the successful and the unsuccessful. I wanted to KNOW what it takes to be a world class husband, father and leader.

I’ve found the answers, and I’ve continued studying marriage, parenting, personal development and leadership for 18 years; and teaching it around the globe.

Today, my amazing wife and I have an incredibly blissful marriage. No lie, our marriage rocks! We have six wonderful children, with whom we love to travel the world and really enjoy life. As I write this article, I am looking out over the lush mountains below our temporary home in Costa Rica.

Happy Families

If I can climb from where I started to who I am, then you can too. Today, right now, can be a turning point in your life; the day you decide with all your heart and soul, to be a leader in your own home.

None of us need look very far to realize that leadership in the home is MIA—missing in action. Parents are so stressed out; their lives are filled with anxiety and turmoil. So many are failing to rise to their full potential as leaders in their home.

Families are falling apart. The divorce rate is pathetically high. Many of those who stay together are unhappy, and merely co-exist.  The chasm between parents and children is widening. The bonds are breaking.

The family is the fundamental unit of society and eternity, and is the basis for true happiness and fulfillment in life. The quality of your family life directly affects everything else you do!

It’s time for you to lead! What is leadership in the home?

  • It’s putting your family first, and proving it with your time and attention.
  • It’s working on yourself harder than you work on anything else. Pursue personal greatness as a spouse, parent and a leader.
  • It’s putting in the time and effort for real preparation and performance at home.

How long and hard did you study for mastery at the university level or in the work place? Does your effort and commitment for mastery in the home match or exceed that? Have you studied successful marriage and parenting even half as hard as you studied for a thesis or dissertation?

Family is the most important part of this life. Is that truth evident in your thoughts and habits? Is your quest for excellence in the home even half as passionate as the quest for material success?

No matter your past. No matter your circumstances. You can become a phenomenal leader in your home.

Children are a gift from God. One day He will ask for an accounting of this most precious stewardship. I challenge you to live in such a way, that on that day, you will be able to look up with confidence and say, “I was a leader in my home.”

Reach upward!

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

The Loneliness of Independent Command

leadership-lonely-leaderI sat in my office with my head in my hands. I was crying. I think that I had been crying for a few days but I cannot honestly remember. I hadn’t been into my office for two weeks but I had to come in because my signature was needed for the day’s events to go ahead.

Tomorrow was the Station Families Day and the Squadron that I commanded was scheduled to perform a flypast, today we had to practice the display* and ensure that the Station Commander was happy for the flypast to go ahead as planned. I had therefore made my way in to work.

As a pilot, I had been trained not to take my problems into the air and I had always been very good at it. I think that most Pilots’ inadvertently practice mindfulness as it generally requires you to be very present, in the moment and making small corrections to keep on track. Today I was struggling.

I had recently discovered that my wife, the mother of our two beautiful boys, was leaving. I had suspected that something was amiss for a long time but didn’t know what to do about it. I never suspected her of having found somebody else, as I could not bring myself to believe that she was looking. I was very, very wrong.

I had informed my Command Chain, both on the base and at the Central Headquarters and had spent the last two weeks wondering how I allowed this to happen. I hadn’t found any answers.

My misplaced sense of duty had led to me driving in to work and preparing for the formation flight. It was all fairly routine and I was ready to deliver the briefing when my Deputy came into my office and unloaded his anger at my absence for the last two weeks. I almost held my nerve but could hear my voice cracking in my responses to him. I think that he knew what was going on at home but wasn’t sure, I hadn’t said anything to him.

He left my office, I cried. Then I went to the locker room, had a shower, regained my composure and then briefed the formation. The practice went well and I was able to concentrate my attention, it was actually a relief to be back in the air again.

The next day, we flew the formation again but this time it didn’t go quite as well. One of the aircraft was damaged on landing and, ultimately, I was at fault.

So What?

I have written this account to demonstrate a point. I was not at war; I was the Commanding Officer of a small training unit. The pressure that I was under does not compare to the pressure faced by commanders/leaders in the combat arena but it was my first “Independent Command”, I was responsible for my actions and made my own decisions. I also had nobody to talk to.

When you become “The Boss” relationships change. It is almost inevitable. However, I ask you to think about your relationships and your circle of friends. It is difficult to be friends with the people that you write reports on and there will always be a little tension. You are human and probably enjoy being part of a team, a tribe, but Command takes you out of your previous circle. The other thing about being human is that you occasionally need somebody to talk to.

Emotional Intelligence and Self-Awareness

What are your options? It is important to remember that you are never really alone, there will be others in similar situations and you should make it a priority to seek them out and develop a connection with them. I made the situation worse by isolating myself and not seeking advice.

As you progress through life, opportunities for Leadership present themselves and the importance of understanding the specific needs of your Team Members is an integral part of almost all leadership training. However, it is easy to forget about your own emotional needs when blinded, even temporarily, by an event, situation or your own perceived status.

On any list of “Leadership Attributes”, the words Honesty and Integrity are ever present. This starts with you. Be honest with yourself first and do not be afraid to ask for advice. It is not a sign of weakness! You are in a Leadership position because you are trusted, you have already proven this to your superiors and they will probably be able to assist you. Don’t be afraid to Ask!

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comments section.

5 Areas of Leadership We Cannot Delegate

leadership-delegation-habits-valuesOn a recent flight I was half-listening to the takeoff instructions reminding me about tray tables, flotation devices and oxygen masks. “If you are traveling with someone who needs assistance, please put your oxygen mask on before assisting others.” I’d heard it a hundred times, but today, it spoke to my weary soul. I had gone through a ministry season during which I had delegated too much of myself assisting others rather than “putting on my oxygen mask first”.

The evidence of the impact of this season could be seen on: my calendar that showed no margin; my stress level from too little time in the gym; and my mental and physical health, showing signs of poor eating and mental fatigue. I was an effective leader of everyone but myself.

“Leader” – The word itself conjures up images of a person who is in charge, discerning, strategic and magnetic. We manage projects, build teams, solve problems and develop people while delegating and distributing vision necessary to bring the future into reality. But at the core of all our work lies a personal responsibility… to lead ourselves.

What I learned through this season, was that while I was good at delegating many things, I cannot delegate self-leadership. There are certain things that ONLY I can do. We have been designed to lead ourselves. This truth was unpacked in a much deeper way for me when I was studying Galatians 6:4-5 “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” (emphasis mine)

The word “LOAD” in this verse is a form used in the Greek language referring to some type of luggage or baggage. Some baggage could be hired out to be carried by a porter. But this particular word for “LOAD” is one the Greek language indicated can only be carried by YOU. It likened it to the fact that no one can be sick for you. No one can grieve for you. It became a powerful awareness for me to pay attention to the things in my life that only I can carry in my self-leadership.

As I began to apply this verse to my own self-leadership, I observed 5 things in my life that, slowly over time, I had allowed to be led by the urgency of others instead of the my own boundaries.

  1. MY POWER HOURS – Morning is the most productive time of my day, so I guard my power hours for my most pressing projects. I get up early each day and I need to guard that time to be focused on important projects, brainstorming and creativity. The saying is true that I cannot burn the candle at both ends. If I know my day starts really early, then I also need to guard that it cannot end very late. I need 8 hours of sleep and must guard my evenings to make sure I have powerful mornings. What are your power hours and how can you guard them?
  1. MY HABITS – Where am I wasting time? (social media, constant emailing, tv, phone) . Is my health suffering? (exercise, eating, stress) How are my relationships? (marriage, parenting, family and teammates) I need to consistently assess areas to identify ways my habits are becoming unhealthy.  Small choices – good or bad ones – over time can affect the person we become. What is one habit you know needs your self-leadership today?
  1. MY VOICE – Steven Covey “It’s easy to say no when you understand your greater yes.” I’ve identified my greater yes to be about things that are specific to my calling, passions, goals and dreams. It releases me to say YES and, more importantly, to say NO to family, professional, and even social invitations and decisions. What is a decision you’re facing that you are tempted to give away your voice?
  1. MY CALLING – There are certain things I am currently doing that many other people can do. However, there are a few things that ONLY I CAN DO. I continually need to filter my calendar, decisions and commitments through my calling and mission statement. I need to challenge myself to say NO to good things in order to say YES to better things. I have been uniquely designed to leave a mark that only Lisa Allen can leave on this world. Can you find one thing to take off your calendar today that can be done by someone else in order to create room for something only YOU can do?
  1. LIVING MY VALUES - Authenticity is one of my top personal values. Am I the same person on the inside as the outside? Am I the same leader at home as I am in the office? Who am I when no one is looking at me?  Leaders who practice self-leadership are keenly aware of the inconsistencies in their lives. Take a good look at yourself and identify any areas that you know are inconsistent with your values. Redirect your choices to reflect the values you hold dear.

From one leader to another, I hope you can learn from my missteps. Aristotle says “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” What are the things that you need to “take back” in order to put the “oxygen mask of self-leadership” back on today? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.