The Wit of the Staircase

And the Art of NOT Always Getting the Last Word

Wit of the Staircase-2

The French seem to always be in possession of le mot juste (the right word). They indeed have a phrase for the moment following a tense or embarrassing incident that happens to those who are not gifted with a quick wit:

“l’esprit de l’escalier”

Translated, it means “the wit of the staircase”. Or, more clearly as it relates to a situation where you only come up with a witty response to a verbal challenge or situation after you’ve turned on your heel and left the scene.

According to Wikipedia, it is the name for the phenomenon that comes from French philosopher Denis Diderot’s description of such an occurrence. At some point during a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, according to history, a remark was made to Diderot which left him speechless at the time. In French he says, “l’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier.”

Translated into English it means, “a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument leveled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs”.

I can relate to that feeling, can’t you?

In this case, “the bottom of the stairs” refers only to the architecture of the kind of hôtel particulier or stately home to which Diderot had been invited. Obviously the reception rooms were located on an upper level or at least one floor above the ground floor. Therefore, to have reached the bottom of the stairs means definitively to have left the gathering and left the awkward or embarrassing exchange that had just occurred.

But I think that there is much more to this than just an architectural consideration.

Are You Moving Fast Enough?

Wit and wisdom from Will Rogers

Don't Just Sit There

The great social commentator of the 1920s and 30s, Will Rogers was a man of great insights. Some of his thoughts on the human condition are on one level very humorous. And on another level they are incredibly deep for a guy who dropped out of school in the 10th grade.

But, he is credited with a quote that I am finding to be very descriptive of some of the things that I see around me these days. Will Rogers said:

Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

I see so many folks in leadership that are truly on the right track. They are not fundamentally heading in the wrong direction. Actually, many time they are not heading in much of a direction. They seem to feel quite confident and assured that just being on the right track is sufficient. It is not.

Let’s assume for a moment that you have stumbled upon the “right track.” How you got there may be a mystery. But your instincts tell you that you are indeed on the right track.

What’s next? Where do you go from here?

Just sitting there is not a long term solution. Will Rogers tells us that if we just sit there, someone will run over us. But, who is going to run over us? Consider the following potential candidates to run over us:

Three Characteristics of Visible Leaders

Are you a verbal leader or a visible leader?

Three Characteristics of

If you are my leader, please don’t just tell me — show up and show me!

I am a passionate person and I am drawn to leaders who can express themselves with great passion. But expressing passion alone will not be sufficient for our team to be successful. We need your demonstrated leadership in the areas that you are espousing such passion.

Consider with me briefly today, three aspects of passionate leaders who are more than just verbal, they are visible:

Visible Leaders are Honestly Committed – These leaders honestly and genuinely believe in what they espouse. Their passion comes from a deep desire for others to know the joy or benefits of what they know or what they have experienced.


At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.


Albert Schweitzer

Leading Meetings That People Enjoy

Leading Meetings

Think back to the last business meeting you had. Was it fun? I know you just laughed a little. Would you describe that meeting as a highlight of your week? (Stop laughing at me.) Or do you think that the meeting made a definitive difference in the work you do? (Alright, that’s enough, I am beginning to get a complex.) I know you are beginning to think I am a bit crazy. I know, just hear me out.

One of the most frustrating things in work can be the meetings that you have to go to. But these can also be fun and inspiring when certain things occur. Even so, there are probably as many jokes about terrible meetings as there are about terrible lawyers and so I want to offer a few ideas on how to lead a better meeting.

You and I both have probably left meetings where we felt that it was completely pointless for us to ever attend again. You probably have thought to yourself: “If I put a cardboard cutout of myself in my seat, the chairman won’t even notice”. In short, I can’t stand going to meetings where my presence, my wisdom and my input is not valued or sought out. If I am going to show up, I don’t want just a lecture, and I don’t want unilateral dispensing of information, ideas and philosophy. Instead, I have this idea that if I am going to come to a meeting it is because I have something to offer. I hope that is why you come as well.

So I want to give three parts to this post. First I want to share about meetings I hate, second I want to share ways to motivate, inspire and challenge during our meetings and lastly I want to share about leading with questions.

7 Must-Have Characteristics to Achieve Leadership Presence

I’ll never forget my dad trying to help me with my first church job. I was still a kid, green out of college, and didn’t have a clue about Leadership Presence. I was still wearing my old sneakers and he wanted me to start wearing penny loafers or wingtips. At the time, I thought he was an old fogey. Now I see his point: he didn’t think people would take me seriously as a leader.
Leadership PResence

It’s tough enough for a young kid to gain respect from adults twice his age due to immaturity and missing many other elements listed here in this article. Those sneakers weren’t my main problem, but my dad knew I needed to start somewhere!

When you walk into a room, what adjectives do people unconsciously write on the whiteboard of their minds? In other words, what kind of Leadership Presence do you have? Do people take you seriously as a leader?

Presence is different from charisma, though charisma may be a part of your Leadership Presence makeup. Presence, as I see it, is more related to the persona of a leader—the credibility and character issues. Perhaps another way to say it is that Presence is how you are perceived.

I’ve grouped these seven must-have characteristics into two primary areas: your Visual Image and Abstract Elements.

Expecting, Inspecting, and Respecting

Thoughts from my recent sabbatical


Here is my twist on an oft quoted business or management adage. “It is not expecting, but inspecting while respecting.” I first heard it from Dr. Elmer Towns nearly 25 years ago in a seminar on Sunday School Growth. And it has been the substance of my 6 week sabbatical from

“You can expect what you inspect” has been credited by Wikipedia to author W. Edwards Deming, but there’s no evidence that he first coined or popularized the saying. Likewise, Lawrence Appley, president of the American Management Association from 1948 to 1968, was credited with the saying as far back as 1967.

Other variations include, “People do what you inspect not what you expect” and it has been cited in print since 1959. Also, “you get what you inspect, not what you expect” shows up since 1962. The adage is sometimes said to have a military origin, but documented citations are not conclusive.  And, “Don’t expect what you don’t inspect” was written by W. Clement Stone in his book, The Success System That Never Fails and published in 1962.

So, enough of the history lesson. What is my point?

Leadership Voices is Taking a Sabbatical

In the almost 3 years that Leadership Voices has been blending various voices of leadership into a message of hope and encouragement, we have grown and attracted a following of nearly 2,200 folks who share our passion.  And each of you have made us sharper through your comments and your feedback.  But, in order to remain a great resource on the subject of leadership, we are going to be taking a sabbatical leave to re-evaluate our web presence, our content, our focus, and our brand.

During that time, I would invite you to remain tied in to the various well known and big name thinkers within the leadership movement. But, I also want to invite you to get connected with someone who I believe is on the leading edge of servant leadership and becoming, what Rodney Mills calls, a Transformational Servant Leader.

Rethink Leadership Crash Course Image

Click this link to get connected with

But stay tuned and check back here from time to time over the next 6 weeks to see how we are progressing.

Free Advice

Free Advice - Blog

I have been speaking to a lot of “young” (really they are just new bloggers) lately. Each of them is addressing the gap that exists between the amount of good, practical leadership principles and the availability of the same. There is no shortage of leadership advice to be had on the internet these days. But, each of these new bloggers that I am speaking with are addressing a vital niche market.

If you have some experience or passion for leadership, then start a blog. There is room for more.  There is room for you to join us.

Therefore, I am offering up a bit of a brain dump that I wished someone had provided to me when I started my first blog in 2006. I have learned by trial and error over these last 9 years.

Many start out with one of the hosted blogging platforms such as or I began with Blogger and used it for almost 6 years. And it served me well. But, I have chosen to move on and I now have a very different “web presence” in 2015 than I did in 2006.

Here are some thoughts for any new blogger to consider:

Play Your Loser Card

Play Your Loser Card First - No Graphics

It would be a mistake to assume that you will only get great leadership insights from folks who are much older than you. Sometimes they come from your peers. And sometimes they come from a peer who is as young as you are at the time.

Such has been the case in my life. I have been blessed to have great influences in my life. This is especially true in my early adult years. Like most, those years coincided with my college career. It was there that I met Daren. And it was there that Daren taught me a great leadership lesson.

“Play your loser card.”

Here is the context of that leadership lesson.