Vision provides the “What” – Leadership provides the “How”

The How and The What

My personal journey toward understanding leadership began many years ago. It began in a medium-sized church in Marietta, Georgia in 1983.

Prior to that point I had been an observer. And I had observed some incredible leaders. I would put my own father in that category. His leadership in many areas are an inspiration to me to this very day. But I have observed many different leaders in these past 32 years. I learned as much as I could from men like Bill Searcy, an entrepreneur and small business owner in the Atlanta metropolitan area. He owned a Firestone auto repair shop. I owned a piece of junk Chevy Celebrity that went through 4 sets of brakes in 2 and a half years. It was a “lemon” and I didn’t realize it. We were destined to spend time together. He taught me more about leadership than just about any one else early in my leadership journey. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.

That kind of observation over the years has shown to me that there are two distinct skill sets that are identifiable among those who would consider themselves to be leaders. There are those that “see” what needs to happen. And there are those who “make” it happen. My observation is that it is actually “vision” that provides the “what” or the goal and objective. But it is “leadership” that provides the “how” and the plan to execute the vision that has been laid out.

Let’s consider for a moment those two skill sets:

Insurmountable Circumstances – Part 1

Rocky Mountains (1)

I am in the Rocky Mountains this week. As I gaze up at the beautiful snow-capped mountains I am also struck by the fact that the peaks are rugged, sheer, and without the appropriate means: insurmountable.

So what do you do when you come up against something that is insurmountable? As a leader what approach do you take when a goal seems impossible to achieve or an obstacle seems impossible to overcome?

I would like to offer a few practical insights to guide you when (not if!) you come up against a sheer and seemingly impassable “mountain”. I will deal with this in two blog posts and will address two things to help you ascend and conquer those mountains. The two primary things that will help you overcome will be 1. Preparing yourself and 2. Gathering the right team and the proper equipment.

So for this post let’s talk about the reality that to overcome insurmountable circumstances you must prepare yourself. 

Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

Put Your Mask On First

You may have heard these words before and not given them much thought.  Today, you have an opportunity to think about them from a fresh perspective.

If you are traveling with children, or are seated next to someone who needs assistance, place the mask on yourself first, then offer assistance. Continue using the mask until advised by a uniformed crew member to remove it.

This is part of the safety briefing that I have heard way too many times in recent days. Upon a quick review of my flight activity on United’s website I was a little surprised to realize that I have flown almost 92,000 miles on United or another Star Alliance carrier since the beginning of the year. And I have flown another 15,000 miles on other carriers in that time.

You hear basically the same safety briefing on every flight. They are fairly dry and emotionless. Unlike some of the funny stuff you hear coming out of Southwest Airlines, United doesn’t see a lot of benefit in humor.

The part about the oxygen mask caused me to pause and ponder a bit recently. The flight attendant asks you to place your mask over your face FIRST. You are asked to do that BEFORE you offer assistance to your children or anyone else who may need your help. I am not sure about you, but that is a concept that would be hard and seem at odds with the heart of a loving father if my children or grandchildren were onboard with me.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

The leadership lesson is that we must realize it is important as leaders that we focus on ourselves from time to time in order that we will have sufficient energy and resources to lead and be a force for change and growth in those around us.

How do we do that?

Here are 5 things that you can do to put your oxygen mask on first:

Some Thoughts From Leadercast 2015


I had the great opportunity to attend Leadercast 2015 last week and I wanted to take a few minutes to share what I took away from the event. Besides almost unlimited Chick-fil-A, I got to spend most of the day with a great leader and friend, Kevin Bowser.

I am sure that most of our dedicated readers will not be surprised to find out the majority of my take a ways are from CMDR (RET) Rourke Denver, a former Navy SEAL and true American hero. The two topics I want to discuss today are confidence, and change. Two things that I feel are important to Leadership, and the way CMDR Denver discussed them, really made them stick.

“No One can make you feel inferior, without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

I would like to start with a story CMDR Denver told us about an airplane trip he took shortly after he retired from active duty:

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

What to do when you don't know what to do

What should we do when we don’t know what to do? You know the times I am talking about. Things seem to be coming at you a bit too hard and a bit too fast. Yesterday you thought you had it handled but today things are a bit too much. What do you do when it seems like things aren’t headed in a good direction and something needs to change quick before the situation either explodes or implodes and leaves nothing but pieces in its aftermath?

Many times we find ourselves doing a number of similar things each time things get a bit out of control:

  • Decompress
  • Self-medicate (through drugs, caffeine, nicotine, food, etc)
  • Rest and relaxation
  • Escape
  • Comfort aids (food, drink, music, other)

But are these the right things to do? What happens when we take this approach?

A Mother’s Love Affects the Brain

Mother - Brain

No wait!  That isn’t a setup line for a punchline. A recent study shows that nurturing a child early in life may help him or her develop a larger hippocampus, the region of the brain that is important for learning, memory and stress responses.

Brain images have now revealed that a mother’s love physically affects the volume of her child’s hippocampus. In the study, children of nurturing mothers had hippocampal volumes 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing. And research has suggested a link between a larger hippocampus and better memory.

One of the study authors had this to say; “We can now say with confidence that the psychosocial environment has a material impact on the way the human brain develops.” Dr. Joan Luby, the study’s lead researcher and a psychiatrist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO said, “It puts a very strong wind behind the sail of the idea that early nurturing of children positively affects their development.”

What Did the Researchers Do?

Today’s Task: Sharpen Your Sword


Stephen Covey popularized the notion in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that we must take time to stop and sharpen our saw from time to time if we are going to successfully cut down the trees and saw the logs that are before us on a daily basis.

And here is one of my favorite sources for quotes, Sir Winston Churchill. He said,

“When the battle drum beats, it is too late to sharpen your sword.”

So, today, I stop and address the topmost task on my ToDo List today: Sharpen the sword.

There are few places as inspiring and motivating as Leadercast when it comes to allowing us a time to stop and listen to some folks with very sharp swords. It also provides me some time and the opportunity to interact with folks who are equally concerned about putting an edge on their swords. Today, I join with many thousands of leaders from all walks of life in participating in one of the Leadership local simulcasts.

I do not know when the battle drum will beat and I will need my sword and will need it to be sharp. So, in the lull between battles, I find the time to tend to that task.

What is the leadership lesson?

The leadership lesson is

EI Outside the Workplace

EI Outside the Workplace

I spent a great deal of time earlier in the week extolling the virtues of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace. And I still believe there is a significant need for and benefit from increasing our EI/EQ and using that increased knowledge and wisdom in the workplace.

But, let me attempt to make a compelling case, and in fact a greater case, for emotional intelligence outside the office and in the home.

Consider the Emotionally Intelligent Husband

The emotionally intelligent husband is a step above the husband who is not aware of his emotional intelligence nor has he raised his emotional intelligence. What defines an emotionally intelligent husband is one who has figured out a secret to marriage that other husbands haven’t yet. That little secret, although it is actually pretty elementary, can actually be pretty difficult to develop because it requires him to become more aware of his wife and her needs. And this is contrary to human nature and a pop culture that says that it is all about me.

Like many husbands, the emotionally intelligent husband has learned to respect and honor his wife. But here is where the EI husband separates himself from the others.

EI and the Collaborative Work Environment

Assembly Line

Look. I am here to do a job. I am not here to make nice with everyone.


Have you ever heard that? Have you ever said that? If so, you are probably not alone. But you are also probably a little out of touch with today’s work environment.

Gone are the days when you came to work, closed your office door and went about your daily tasks in the quiet and solitude of your office. Gone are the days when you only ventured out of your office to go to the coffee machine and bathroom. Today’s new office environment is about “Collaboration”. And collaboration is not a solo activity. It is team sport.

The old adage about leaving your emotions at the door before stepping into the office is dead, according to a recent study from the University of Bonn. Published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior in November 2014, the study showed individuals who displayed emotional intelligence—the ability to discern other people’s emotions—were more likely to bring home a bigger paycheck than their emotionally-stunted colleagues. In other words, those that are able to collaborate successfully and positively with their colleagues may be more financially successful.

The New Collaborative Workplace Is Different

There was a certain level of cooperation needed in the manufacturing economy of the past. But that economy was focused on productivity, efficiency, and was largely solo driven work an assembly line. These days collaboration and teamwork are emphasized—making emotional intelligence more important in the workplace.