Traditions Need a Foundation and a Credible Leader

It is not enough to just have some great traditions

Traditions Need a Foundation and a Credible Leader

I pondered recently the value of “traditions” when it comes to building a legacy of leadership. And I got a lot of interesting feedback and comments from folks who reached out to me directly.  And the one that kept coming up over and over was this. “What is more important – The tradition, or the one who is responsible for maintaining and upholding the tradition?”

That is a tough question, isn’t it? It is tough because, at the end of the day, the tradition is only as “valuable” as the one (or ones) who maintain it.

I get to be a part of or visit many, many organizations as part of my job and due to the consulting that I do with non-profit organizations. Each of them would tell you that they have a corporate culture. Many would say that they have some traditions that they hold dear. Yet many of the leaders within those organizations are frustrated and confused by the fact that the culture and traditions do not seem to be permeating the entire organization. Why is that?

Traditions Without Foundations

One of the common reasons for the lack of traditions and the legacy that they bring is that organizations lack the foundational principles on which traditions and legacies are built. They believe that culture is built by providing a good write-up in the New Employee handbook. Unfortunately, the handbook does not establish the “Why?”? And many times it doesn’t even address the “How?”. And the “How” is infinitely easier to explain than the “Why?”  Perhaps traditions are like values. They are not taught. They are caught!

Are you building a foundation where the traditions can be observed and followed because of how well they are defined and lived out by the leadership of the organization?

Traditions Without Credible Leadership

The last sentence of the section above really hints at the problem that no one is really willing to acknowledge. It is like the ancient proverb that says: “A man that thinks he is leading, yet has no followers, is only taking a walk.

After the sting of that thought begins to go away, let’s consider the role that you and I, as leaders, play in the instilling of leadership traditions throughout the organization. Especially when it comes to young leaders and those leaders that are the “up and coming” leaders in an organization.

The first and foremost factor when it comes to the successful instilling of leadership traditions in an organization is that you and I, as leaders, MUST be great examples of those leadership traditions. I was reminded again recently of this when I came across the Knight’s Code that is upheld by an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. That code says:

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Leadership Traditions Build a Leadership Legacy

Practice Makes Permanent

Leadership Traditions Build a Leadership Legacy

How many of you are already thinking that I have made a mistake in my writing the subtitle of this article? Most of us have grown up hearing that “Practice makes perfect.” Well, for those of us who have done any coaching, we will tell you that “Practice makes permanent.” Therefore, your practice must be focused and it must direct you toward an ideal.

Recently I had the opportunity to observe the Traditions Ceremony at the school where several of my grandchildren attend. It was interesting to observe. At the Traditions Ceremony, there are special items that are presented to the students throughout their time at the school. Every other year they receive a Tradition item.

  • Children in Kindergarten receive a Bible with their name and their year of graduation printed on the cover. This provides the foundation for everything else that they will learn.
  • Second graders receive a Compass. This reminds them of the importance of guiding principles and the importance of being able to find our way.
  • Fourth graders receive the School Crest. This contains the Knight’s Code and reinforces the duties as well as the rights and responsibilities to speak truth, right wrongs, live pure and follow Christ.
  • Sixth graders receive a Journal and Pen. It is with these that they will begin to formulate and articulate their thoughts and practice the rhetorical skills that are needed to communicate clearly and with conviction.
  • Eighth graders receive a Blue Blazer with the school crest on the left over their heart. The crest has those principles of the Knight’s Code.
  • Sophomores receive a Gold Leadership Pin to wear on the right lapel of their blazers. This is to remind them of their ascending leadership role to the rest of the school community.
  • And seniors receive a Walking Stick. Yes, that’s right. They receive a walking stick.

Why a Walking Stick?

Well, to be perfectly clear, it is not a walking stick. It is a “walking staff.” What is the difference between a stick and a staff?

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Leadership Lessons the Hard Way

Being Right Has Nothing To Do With It

Leadership Lessons the Hard Way

I awoke yesterday morning to the terrible news that I lost a dear friend overnight. My friend, Butch Sweeney, could no longer stand to be in this mortal shell. He had suffered tremendously for years. But, he is not suffering today. He is dancing on the streets of Heaven and his amazing tenor voice is being heard loud and clear once again.

But this article today is not merely a tribute to him and to his life. Rather, it is a brief story about one of the toughest leadership lessons I ever learned. Butch taught me that it is not a question of who is right or wrong. It is a question of including all of the stakeholders and “selling” the idea to them first.

The Idea

The idea was that in order to increase the effectiveness and reach of the organization that we both loved and served, a change was necessary to how we served the people of that organization. It was my idea that if we radically altered how we delivered the message to the members, we would see greater attendance, greater involvement, and greater engagement. At least, that was the idea.

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Build Another Leader in 2016

Step Three for 2016

Resolution #3

And here we are at part 3 of this quick 4 part series on resolutions that every leader should make as they start the new year. On Monday, I dealt with the importance of being a better leader. On Wednesday I discussed being a better follower.

Now it is time to consider the next step in the 4 part process.

Resolve This Year To Build Another Leader 

This is the oft-forgotten role of truly great leaders. These leaders are concerned about the legacy that they will leave behind. It has been said that one of the key responsibilities of a leader is to build more leaders rather than just building followers. Or, as someone else has put it — Good leaders build strong followers. Great leaders build more leaders.

Ralph Nader has been credited with saying it this way — “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” I am not now, nor have I ever been a big fan of Ralph Nader. However, if he is correct, and I believe he is, the question that it leaves for you and I is this. How do we go about the task of producing and then developing other leaders? Because producing new young leaders without having the plan to develop them is ludicrous and damaging to these young leaders.

So, resolve this year to pour yourself into the life of some young leader and help build their leadership skills. It is hard to release the reigns of leadership and allow others to lead. But as leaders, we must always be providing opportunities for new and younger leaders to gain valuable experience.

So, how do we build other leaders?

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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.

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Teach Gratitude to a Preschooler in Four Simple Steps


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 the next generation of leaders: An introduction

Editors’ Note: This article was originally posted in 2014, and for 2015 David and Leadership Voices have decided to produce a series of articles focused on family leadership and developing a plan for producing a legacy of leaders. We wanted to share this article with you again to reset and refresh the ideas as we set up the new series beginning next week. We look forward to your ideas and comments!

I’m the father of three little kids who are just beginning their education, with one in kindergarten, another in preschool and the third is migrating from toddler to little boy. I’ve been contemplating the things that they are learning this year, and watching where they are succeeding, where they struggle, and studying how I can lead my family through both ends of that spectrum. I’m working with my wife to help them learn to read and write, helping them through the sorts of social experiences they are experiencing… you get the idea if you are a parent.

I’ve also been thinking lately about the things that my children need to learn beyond what one might expect of a preschool or kindergarten curriculum: things like an understanding of football, baiting a fish hook, how (and more importantly, when) to throw a punch, how to safely handle a pocket knife (for my oldest, at least), for a few examples.

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Legacy Leadership – Part 5 – Living a Worthy Legacy Now


LL - 5 - 1If I told you today that you would die on November 7, 2024 at midnight, how would you spend the next 10 years of your life?

If I told you today that you would die on November 7, 2014 at midnight, what would you do?

Would there be any difference in your approach?

I have be been very fortunate to hear some of the greatest Gospel voices preach in our church, at camp meetings or various retreats.  One of the greatest in my mind is Dr. William McCumber. For those of you who may not know, he was a pastor, teacher and publisher of a magazine.

LL - 5 - 2He preached a message one time that I think is relevant to our Legacy Leadership theme as I bring this series to a close.  In his message he was trying to help us come to grips with how we are to live our lives in light of the coming end of this age.  Dr. McCumber was asked one time what he would do given that we may be living in the last days before Jesus returns.  He said, with no intent to create humor, that he would go home and fix the leak in his roof.

That is an odd response, wouldn’t you say?

His point was this.  We should be living our lives in such a way that if we knew that Jesus was returning, we would be so ready to go that we would just go on about our daily activities.

That challenges me.  If I knew for sure that my time was near, would I be running around making amends?  Would I be trying to make up for lost time? Or would I just go about my daily routine?

I realize that this is a gross oversimplification. But it makes the point that I think I want to make today.

What is the legacy leadership point here?

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Legacy Leadership – Part 4 – Leaving a Legacy


LL - 4 - 1You and I can have an impact upon others that outlasts your lifespan on this earth. In fact, it is unavoidable. The big question is whether or not that it will have been a positive impact.

Following certain Biblical principles, you can leave a legacy, a spiritual inheritance that will affect the lives of others for all eternity.

I have discussed this in my previous articles. And many others have discussed the idea of leaving a legacy as well. Presidents often speak of leaving a “legacy” when their term is done. You hear expressions like: “President Clinton’s legacy is…” or “What will President Bush’s legacy be?” These expressions are referring to the impact that their presidency will have upon future generations. It means, how will history remember them?

I want to talk to you today about leaving a Spiritual legacy, a spiritual inheritance, for those who come after us. Passing on to the next generations a legacy with eternal value is far more important than a temporal inheritance of money and property.

Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.

But what does that really mean? I have already said that things of eternal value are of the utmost importance. So, on a practical level, what can I do?

LL - 4 - 2My wife and I recently met with our financial advisor. We looked at where we are currently and whether or not we are “on track”. He told us we are on track. That was good news. I asked him to share with us his projections and the parameters that he was using. He ran our life span out to age 90. And at the ripe old age of 90, he said we still had a little money left over to “leave to the children”. I felt pretty good about that. You know, leaving money to our young children and all. But then my wife asked him to run the projection out to age 100! Strangely enough we don’t have a whole lot of money left at that point. I was downhearted at the prospect of that. But, my intelligent and highly mathematically inclined wife quickly reminded me that when we are 100, our “children” will be in their early and mid 70s! They will probably have been retired for 15 or more years themselves! And their children will be in their 50s and probably thinking about retirement for themselves! I had it all wrong.

Well, consider the following as some practical guidance from a Biblical perspective.

Our children and grandchildren should be target #1 for our legacy. – Your primary task in life is

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Legacy Leadership – Part 3 – Restoring a Legacy


LL Part 3 - 1Restoring.


Something is either broken or old. In either case, the word connotes that something needs to be repaired. I am not sure exactly how that aligns with my understanding of restoration. But I think it is not too far from the reality of it.

There are several recent examples of restoration that are at various stages of the process. One example is from the industry in which I am employed. And the second is from the world of college football. Consider with me for a moment – the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico and the scandal that erupted involving a former football coach at Penn State University.

The Deepwater Horizon created an oil spill and plume covered almost 360 square miles with the most severe reduction of biological abundance and biodiversity impacting an area about 9 square miles around the wellhead, and moderate effects seen 57 square miles around the wellhead. Yet, once the flow was finally stopped and the initial massive cleanup efforts were concluded, the area today is largely unnoticeable from an ecological standpoint. I will not argue the relative merits or impacts to onshore locations or the local economies. Those seem to operate sometimes outside the bounds of reasonable expectations because of the human emotional impact. But my point here is, although potentially unpopular and controversial, that nature began to heal itself. Nature restored itself.

LL Part 3 - 2Now consider the scandal that erupted at Penn State over the deplorable and unconscionable acts of a former coach, Jerry Sandusky. Following a very tumultuous time in which the collateral damage was significant, the guilty party was sentenced to jail where it is my hope he will spend the rest of his natural life. I am not concerned about his legacy. I am concerned about the legacy of a good and decent man who died during the tumult that surrounded the scandal.  Joe Paterno died in the days following the scandal eruption and his son and assistant coach, Jay Paterno, is striving to restore his father’s legacy. Unlike nature, his father’s legacy will not restore itself. Even when the final chapter is written on the scandal and the record will show that Joe Paterno followed the protocol of the university, he will be forever tarnished by the scandal in which he played no part.

So, how does a guy like Jay Paterno go about restoring the legacy of his father?

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