The Leader in the Second Chair

What kind of leader do you aspire to be?


We are in an ugly political season. In fact, it may be the ugliest one in my lifetime. So, in light of that and from a political perspective, one of the political leaders that I admired the most was Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee.

I have been giving a lot of thought about the topic of “Leading from the Second Chair”. Although I have not yet read Bonem and Patterson’s book by that name, I have seen a lot of that type of leadership in my own life and in the life of some of those who I admire greatly.

His was the very first presidential campaign that I worked on was as a young volunteer. Unfortunately, I was a part of his unsuccessful attempt to become President in 1979. I admired Sen. Baker on multiple levels. Others admired him as well. Known in Washington, D.C. as the “Great Conciliator”, Baker is often regarded as one of the most successful senators in terms of brokering compromises, enacting legislation, and maintaining civility across the aisle. A story is sometimes told of a reporter telling a senior Democratic senator that privately, a plurality of his Democratic colleagues would vote for Baker for President of the United States. Unfortunately, in my opinion, not enough Americans apparently shared that same sentiment.

Some of the times during his career that I admired him the most were his days as White House Chief of Staff for Ronald Reagan. Reagan was the opponent who defeated him early in the primary season and caused him to drop out after the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary.

Baker did not seek re-election in 1984. However, as a testament to Baker’s skill as a negotiator and honest and amiable broker, Reagan tapped him to serve as Chief of Staff during part of Reagan’s second term (1987–1988). Many saw this as a move by Reagan to mend relations with the Senate, which had deteriorated somewhat under the previous chief of staff, Donald Regan. It is interesting to note that in accepting this appointment as Chief of Staff, Baker chose to skip another bid for the White House in 1988. He would never run again. Who knows if he would have been successful? I, for one, would have loved to have seen him elected in 1988 over the alternative that year.

The Leadership Principle

So what is the leadership principle that I admired in Sen. Baker? Well, I think it is embodied in these two principles.

Click here to continue reading »

Be Compelling

Leadership Basics


I think that I have mentioned before that I just love a good quote. Today, I return to a quote that I wrote about several years ago. It deals with the need for us to be “compelling” leaders.

Here it is:

“So why do we remember him? We remember him because nothing is more compelling than a good man in an evil time.”

Just let that sink in a moment.

The speaker was Charles Chaput, the archbishop of Philadelphia. And I was listening to a speech given on July 8, 2013, at the National Shrine in Washington, DC. In his speech, he centered his thoughts around a well-known military and political leader.

He quotes from this leader’s own words written while on a military campaign Germany. Apparently, he kept a diary. And some of his words are worth sharing today because they gave rise to Archbishop Chaput’s words that so captivated me.

Click here to continue reading »

Developing Young Leaders

This works for any NEW leaders also!


I have been on a bit of a “Leadership Development” track lately. That is especially true as it relates to young leaders. Training the next generation of leaders in your organization may be the most important thing you do as a leader. It has been said, and I agree, that the goal of leaders is  not to create more followers but to create more leaders. Now, we can debate what that single most important thing is. But, I think that we can all agree that training the next generation of leaders is certainly in the top three!

With that in mind, let’s get right to it 

Here are the things that I feel we need to be doing to keep producing new leaders. This list is not exhaustive. But I firmly believe that if we take these seven ideas to heart and begin to employ them in our relationships with young leaders, then great things will happen.

Train Young Leaders to Respect Authority – To effectively be in authority you must first learn to be under authority. They are “young leaders”. There are certainly some “gray leaders” around who have the scars and the experience to guide these young leaders. And these young leaders must learn to respect those in authority over them.

Play to the Strength of Young Leaders – These young leaders have immediately identifiable talents, skills, and abilities. Play to them and allow the young leader to experience success early and often in their developmental process.

Click here to continue reading »

Leadership Comes From Experience

NOT from Exposure!


As a leader, I am always seeking experiences that will make me a better leader. As a “follower”, I crave experienced and proven leaders. What we need is something that prepares men and women to actually lead and not just to think about or read about leadership.

Young developing leaders need opportunities to actively and personally explore and/or experience what they should have already learned in an academic setting or observed in a practical setting. These opportunities should be “performance practicums” and represent a safe environment for young leaders to grow and gain the practical experience that we as followers desperately want them to have. How else do we develop and grow the best young leaders in our organizations?

A Perspective on Experience

Frequent readers of this blog will know how much I love a great quote. And, it is said that John F. Kennedy produced a notable one as he was battling perceptions that he had a marked deficit of leadership in his 1960 presidential campaign. He is quoted as saying:

“Experience is like tail lights on a boat which illuminate where we have been when we should be focusing on where we should be going”.

That is a great quote, isn’t it? And it is highly inspirational. Especially to the young and to the up and coming.

Another Perspective on Experience

Click here to continue reading »

Be A Mentor

Are you a mentor to other leaders?


In a recent article, I tackled the need for leaders to be “teachable.” And we certainly must be. But leaders must also be teaching — or, in my words, leaders must be a mentor.

Your followers today are the future leaders of tomorrow. As leaders, we have an obligation to those who will come behind us, or in other words, our future to train and mentor tomorrow’s leaders today. The pace of change today is so swift that we must mentor and coach our young leaders through these times. “Trial by fire” may just not be an option in our organizations.

How do we develop and keep the best young leaders? 

The answer is to use a formal or even an informal mentoring program. By using an effective mentoring program, you and I can help develop today’s leadership talent and potential into tomorrow’s proven and tested leaders. Organizations that leverage the leadership and experience of senior staff can develop, maintain, and retain the talent that they may already have in-house. 

What are some things to consider as a leadership mentor?

Click here to continue reading »

Are You A Covenant Leader?

Or, are you a convenient leader?


Two of my grandchildren attend a school with the word “Covenant” as part of the name of the school. They take this word seriously at the school. I was discussing leadership topics the other day with another person who is as passionate about leadership as I am and I was a little aggravated with the state of leadership among some who would be leaders. Unfortunately, the lack of covenant leadership is just too easy to identify today wherever you look.

One of the descriptions for leaders that I observe today is that they have no concept of a covenant and are just being convenient leaders. So, what does that mean?

Click here to continue reading »

Be Teachable

Are You a Teachable Leader?


They are called “Teachable Moments” and we assume that we are the “teacher” in those moments. But, have you ever considered that you might be the one in need of a little teaching?

What exactly is a Teachable Moment?

According to Beth Lewis, “a teachable moment is an unplanned opportunity that arises in the classroom where a teacher has an ideal chance to offer insight to his or her students. A teachable moment is not something that you can plan for; rather, it is a fleeting opportunity that must be sensed and seized by the teacher.”

Did you notice the emphasis on the teacher? In most scenarios, the teacher is the leader. However, in all of my research, I found very little information about the importance of the moment from the student’s perspective. In fact, it was as though the students just stumbled into the moment and thank goodness the teacher was there to save them.

But what if it is the leader that has a teachable moment? Are you, as a leader, teachable? Do you have a humble and open spirit to what others may have to say to you? Are there people in your life who can speak truth, hard truth at times, into your life?

What are the teachable moments for a leader?

Click here to continue reading »

20 Things You Need In A New Leader

Is it time for a change in your organization?


Perhaps we don’t really “need” a new leader. Maybe we just really “want” it. Do you ever feel that way?

Change is inevitable. I know, that is so cliché. That doesn’t make it any less true. Leadership change is often needed when organizations have plateaued, been through a crisis, or leaders have taken themselves out of the picture for various reasons. In each of those cases, someone must take a hard look at the organization and the needs of all the parties concerned and select another leader.

What are some things that an organization should consider in selecting a new leader? Consider with me the following as a partial list of key skills, abilities, traits, or tendencies. It is not an exhaustive list by any stretch. But it may spur some thoughts and ideas as an organization moves forward with seeking and selecting new leadership.

They must possess Leadership Abilities– This one almost goes without saying. When selecting a leader, make sure they have demonstrated leadership somewhere and some place before you bring them into your organization.

They Must Demonstrate Past Performance / Results – When searching for a new leader, do your research. Check out the leadership candidate. Has he/she demonstrated strong leadership in the past? Do they get results?

They Must Realize That They Are Part of Something Bigger – Each of us is a part of a much larger organization. And we should consider that we are building something that is larger than our local organization and it should fit well with the larger organization.

They Must Show That They Have Learned From Past Mistakes – Everybody makes them. How does the leadership candidate show that they have learned from mistakes made in the past?

They Must Show That They Can Fit Within the System or Personality of the Organization – Does the candidate mesh with the organization’s overall system or personality? If not, you are destined for conflict.

Click here to continue reading »

Leading a Team of Direct Reports

Three Things That Will Make You a Better Leader


Leading and coaching people who directly report to you is a different endeavor than coaching someone who has no formal accountability to you. Coaching people can be exceptionally fun and rewarding, however when those being coached see you as “the boss” the dynamics of that relationship are much more complex. Because of cultural depictions of “the boss” and individuals’ personal experiences with previous managers, sometimes it is an extremely difficult and delicate task to lead direct reports. In this post, I want to give you 3 practical steps for leading direct reports that will make your entire experience more enjoyable and more profitable.

First, to be an effective leader of a team of direct reports you will need to overcome stereotypes and individuals’ perceptions/misperceptions of you. We are always initially judged by people not based on who we are but based on the employers/managers/bosses who came before us. It would be an impossible task to try and identify everything that has ever been done wrong in the name of leadership but there are three big things that always come up:

  • “He is so bossy”
  • “She doesn’t pay any attention to me”
  • “I don’t ever know what’s going on around here”

How Do I Fix That?

As a leader of direct reports, work diligently to let your team know that they are valued, they are important to you and the team, and that you are available to them but will not smother them with your presence. Make sure to communicate and over-communicate important data about the organization and team but also about the roles, abilities, and accomplishments of the team.  If a team member senses your trust and respect of them, and the value you place on them as a part of the team you will be able to overcome some of the baggage they brought with them regarding leaders.

Click here to continue reading »