Lead Big or Lead Small

Leadership Lessons from an Afternoon at Monster Jam

Sometimes leading small is really leading big.

It is human nature for most folks, when given a choice, to choose the big piece of pie instead of the smaller piece. Leaders are no different. There are some really great books out there that talk about servant leadership and one with the title, Leaders Eat Last. It was inspired by an interview between Simon Sinek and Lt. Gen. George Flynn, USMC Ret.

In that interview, Sinek asked Flynn to try and summarize what made the Marine Corps leadership style unique among the various branches of the military. Flynn said it was quite simple; it was because “Officers eat last”. This concept is both fundamental and intentional. And it exemplifies what makes the Marine Corps such an extraordinarily tight-knit unit. In chow-halls all across the globe Marines line up for their food each day with the most junior ranking Marines getting their food and eating first. Their officers eat last.

Just like in the pivotal courtroom seen in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, you will not find this procedure in the Marine Corps handbook. Nor is it communicated at roll call. It’s just the way that Marine leadership teaches responsibility from recruit class to recruit class and into the rank and file of the Marine Corps.

So what does this have to do with leading big or small?

We go back to human nature. And we go back to some of the common personality traits of leaders. They are usually not shy and reclusive. And they have no problem standing up for themselves or their people. And they usually have substantial egos. And they are generally motivated to succeed. Those are not bad traits. But they also tend to want to grow and leader bigger and bigger teams and seek to influence on a larger scale when offered the chance.

I am still not sure what this has to do with leading big or small!

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Is “Inspiration” Enough?

Some leadership thoughts from a funeral service

My family’s schedule was impacted this week by the death of my mother-in-law. You can insert all of the standard mother-in-law jokes here if you want to. But, none of them were true in our case. My wife’s mother was an incredible woman. And I loved her dearly.

It is at times like these that we pause and look at a life well lived. And it is altogether fitting that we do so. Mom led a life that by all measures was well-lived. For a skinny girl with glasses that preferred books to boys, she had an incredible life and an incredible impact on so many.

But, merely reading her obituary does not really give you the true sense of the impact that she had on the lives of her family, her church, and her friends. She was an amazing woman. I was blessed to know her for almost 43 years. She was an inspiration to multiple generations who knew her as “Mom”, Aunt Jo Ann, “Grandmama”, and “Greatmama”, except that title was already taken by another extraordinary woman that is walking the streets of Glory today as well, so she just became Grandmama to a new generation.

Is there a leadership angle here?

This is just an observation on my part. But, it seems that we are willing to be inspired by Jo Ann and folks like her. But, are we willing to be instructed and to do the work in our own lives to have these virtues and values instilled in ourselves?

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Watching and Influence 

Someone is always watching you

Even when you don’t think so. Somebody is watching you. Somebody is always watching every little move you make, every step you take, every vow you break. (Wow, I broke into a lyric there for a second.)

Such is the stuff of thrillers and horror movies. But the same is true of the daily and the mundane. Someone is always watching you. That is certainly the case for me today as I sit in a waiting room this morning. As I am waiting, I look up in the corner of the room at the ceiling line and there it is. A little surveillance camera. Someone at a little monitor somewhere in another part of the hospital is watching me. I can’t imagine a more boring job.

This was a gentle reminder that, even when you don’t realize it, someone always has their eyes on us. That fact is also a gentle reminder that folks are influenced by what they see in us.

The Power of Influence

As a leader, do you understand the power of your influence?

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My Mount Rushmore of Mentors

The Top Few Who Have Really Influenced Me

I had a text message this morning from a man who has been way more influential in my life than he even knows. We had not been in touch for a while due to his move from TX to LA and because of my crazy schedule for the last few months. He was checking in with me to make sure that the lack of communication was not due to some unidentified or unresolved issue between us. Nothing can be farther from the truth!

In the short text response back to him to let him know I am still alive, I told him that he is on my personal “Mount Rushmore” of guys who have had a major impact on my life. The real Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota is the epitome of public acknowledgment of greatness.

Mount Rushmore features 60-foot sculptures of the heads of four of the United States greatest presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Can you name anyone else who deserves to be on that mountainside? Wait, don’t do that. That is not what this article is about. It is about the four guys who have had a significant impact on my life and my leadership development.

My Mount Rushmore

I want to share with you just who these guys are. But I want to allow them some anonymity out of respect for their time and privacy. Here they are:

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The Business of Ethics

MM - Ethics

I am sure there has been much written about ethics in leadership but I wanted to share some insights recently revealed to me.

I had a visit with some dear friends who have been in leadership positions and one is currently writing a book on “ethics in the university”. He is a retired professor and is a dear friend so, jokingly, I asked him if he had discovered any, to which there was a resounding NO.

The chats usually go with the state of our country then circles around to business models and ethics.

First, I’m not sure why we call it “business ethics”.

Is the place we learn business ethics, in business, or is it too late then?  Our conversation had me asking that question, “Where do we learn” ethics?

Well, I got the standard business answer we all should expect and the one you are thinking. We teach them in college and have training classes and seminars. Which isn’t bad, I might add!

As you may guess at this point in the conversation, I still had plenty of questions. So, one immediate question was; at what age do we start to teach ethics?

Where and when do “we” learn ethics?

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Teach Gratitude to a Preschooler in Four Simple Steps

Gratitude

In all things give thanks… The five year old just celebrated her birthday. She received a predictably mountainous and diverse pile of presents from family and friends, and we had a princess party with Rapunzel wigs, manicures, make up, and an assortment of little princess activities. As any parent might, we made a big deal out of her day. Yet as her daddy, I asked myself before the party and after: what lessons are my little girl learning from this showering of attention and gifts, and are those lessons the right ones?

There are obvious lessons: I am special. I am loved. I am blessed. I am liked. My life is appreciated.

There are subtle lessons: Some people brought me nicer gifts than others. Some people seem to be having a better time than others. Some people seem to be sad (or angry) that I am the one receiving all the attention. Some people wish they had my toys.

And there are some lessons that are insidious: I didn’t get as many presents as my older sister got at her birthday. I think the present I got my friend for her birthday party is better than the one she got me. The party I went to last month was much more fun than my party. I don’t have as many friends as some of my other friends do.

You get the idea – all of these are non-specific and all of them apply. I am amazed as a still-rookie Daddy that these lessons are taught and learned at such a tender age. Yet it is my responsibility to lead my family through them: contentment, envy, fairness, jealousy, joy… but our focus for today is gratitude. As you develop a plan for teaching your kids to be grateful, consider these things:

1. You can’t teach what you don’t know.

Before you can teach anything to anyone – and especially your kids – you’re going to need to understand what it is you are teaching them. The word “gratitude” come from the same latin root word from which we derive the word “grace”. Although grace and gratitude don’t share precisely the same meaning, they are two sides to the same coin. Indeed, one could make a strong case that the proper response to grace is gratitude.

So, start like this: make a list of the graces you experience in your own life. Life itself is a good place to start, and while you are at it, think of other people who have led you, and taught you, and corrected you. And maybe even consider how people who have been less than gracious to you have shaped you in ways that have somehow or another worked out well. You can continue from there. Perhaps (and hopefully!) your children themselves are high on this list. Make certain that you consider how the people in your life figure into the grace/gratitude spectrum. This could as easily be called “counting your blessings”, but your list will have greater meaning to you and your kids if you write it down.

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Leading Without a Title

Leading Without a Title

So what can a “leader” do without a title?  What can a “leader” do without a position?

There are many times in life, work and ministry that we may find ourselves without a formal title or position and yet still feel a call to lead. But who will follow? And who are we leading? And for what purpose? And toward what end result?

All of these are questions we may face when we feel a burning desire within to help others, to see lasting change in lives, organizations and communities and yet don’t have an official “platform” from which we can lead.

What are some principles of leadership that are applicable regardless of title or position?

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What Happens When You Put a Bunch of Leaders in One Room?

Group of leaders

I had the pleasure (No, really, I did!) of joining with a group of local leaders and entrepreneurs today for lunch. A very dear friend and trusted advisor invited me to participate and it was a lot of fun.

It is interesting to watch the various leadership styles and personality types interact with one another. Some are very far along the entrepreneurial path and are running successful ventures. Some haven’t taken the plunge fully. Some are completely confident and at ease in that setting. Some . . . not so much.

One of the outcomes of the meeting was that there will be a little more structure in the upcoming meetings. Each of us will have an opportunity to speak to the entire organization about our companies. It was suggested that we take a few minutes to discuss our venture. We would take a few minutes to discuss a success. And we would take a few minutes to discuss a challenge that we are facing. I think that is an excellent idea.

It is an excellent idea because it will cause us to hone our “pitch.” One person said that in reality we are each really salespeople trying to sell the public on why they need our product, our service, or our message. But more importantly than than refining our “pitch” is that it refines our core message. Each time we speak about who we are and what we do we will get better and more succinct.

What is the leadership lesson here?

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Learn From Your Life

A few years back I wrote about how nothing in our life is wasted.  This post further explores some simple ways that you can learn from your life and use the lessons you can learn to help those who are coming up behind us.

I was sitting at a friends house the other night and began chatting with his 14  year-old son about girls, money, business, growing up, faith, and making good choices. I’m sure it was a fun conversation for a teenager on a Friday night, but he was kind and obliged my candor and strong opinions.

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The Poser in Me

 

The Poser In Me - 1For the last year or so I have been facilitating a small study group with a hunger to understand not only leadership values but what has God called us to do. Out of that study there have been several revelations to the developmental phases of a young persons life. We are very blessed to have the opportunity to nurture our young into meaningful productive God fearing people.

But where do we fail them?

I believe one of the early stages of when we let them down is when we fail to “affirm” them. Now, many of you reading this will  not associate with that statement. However, when we look at the breakup of many families today one of the most telling statements heard is of how the kids are NOT valued. Do we allow boys to be boys, or girls to be girls? Certainly NOT! Neither gender can compete “honestly” in any competition. We  teach them from an early age that “misrepresenting the truth” is an OK (no winners, no losers) thing to do. The reality is there are winners and losers. Another reality is…some of those winners have turned into big losers while some of the losers have turned into some of the biggest and brightest stars we’ve seen.

Consider;  Susan Boyle, a Scottish singer who  appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. She finished second, but her amazing talent  captured the world’s attention.  Her 1999 rendition of “Cry Me a River”was watched over 100 million times!  Boyle even made 5 Million Pounds with the release of I Dreamed a Dream. How’s that for a Successful Loser

Boyle was Boyle and under pressure refused to change. She refused to be a poser!

What is a poser?

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