Leadership: Aspire to Inspire . . .

Some thoughts from the perspective of multiple careers

Leadership_ Aspire to Inspire

I have been given a golden opportunity to share my thoughts on leadership from the perspective of having two very different and fulfilling careers. I will take this opportunity to discuss with you two words that mean a great deal to me and to the legacy we leave behind in this world. Many people believe that in our younger years we work hard since we aspire to great things.

Some call this effort our “inner drive” to be the best we can be. How does that aspiration “grab hold?” How do we know when our aspirations are realistic, achievable and worthy of commitment? Therein lies the rub! In my opinion, we feed that aspiration through inspiration.

When we have great leaders, mentors, friends or family that inspire us and guide us through life-giving opportunities that we are blessed with every day, we begin to feed those aspirations and give strength to that aspirational drive. Inspiration is such a beautiful, and often, a spiritual trait. Although inspiration is available to all, at times it seems that only a few people seem to truly recognize and avail themselves of this precious gift to make life better for themselves and for others. There are, however, people in our midst who live quiet lives of integrity, trust, and faith. They inspire, often without words, through their example. These people, whether they know it or not, are able to inspire others through their strong sense of faith and to help others to see the best in themselves and to be and to live “inspired” lives.

I have been so fortunate to have had two wonderful careers.

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I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

What a Railroad Can Teach You About Leadership

Leadership Lessons from the Railroad

Effective leadership is fashioned through activities, which chisel away excess material revealing the masterpiece within. One summer I learned a lot about leadership working with troubled and troubling teens constructing a rail system for a local historical society in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What I learned about leadership resulted from specific steps executed in the construction of the track. The project revealed three distinct lessons regarding leadership. The result of the investment made in the project and the people was an increased capacity to exercise effective leadership skills.

This article will detail the first in a series of three lessons learned during the construction of a small-scale, full-sized rail system for a local historical society. In subsequent installments, the second and third lessons will be shared. Each lesson stands alone; however, the three lessons combine to produce a compound effect. Personal application of each lesson is suggested to aid the reader in maximizing the transferability of the applied concept.

Lesson #1: To shape individual leadership skills requires varying amounts of tension.

The first observation on arrival to the site was

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Leading Through the Doldrums


Doldrums - 1I once thought I had nothing to say about leadership, that I had nothing valuable to contribute that had not already been said by others.  That may still be true, but today I felt the need to voice some thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain.  They are probably nothing new in the conversation, but somehow I think that when common themes continue to be discussed amongst those who are on the front lines daily, who live moment by moment at the crossroads of leading or quitting, they may gain the strength to keep going one more day because they realize they aren’t alone.

You see, those who find themselves in the position of leading often find themselves feeling lonely, overwhelmed, and inadequate.  Many contemplate quitting.  Why? In many cases, it is because they have lost sight of why they are doing what they are doing.  They may have lost sight of the vision; of where they are supposed to be taking their team.  Worse yet, they may never have had a vision. In either case, without a vision, they are leading nowhere. They are simply keeping their ship afloat in the doldrums.  They get stuck managing the minutia that has no other purpose but keeping the boat from sinking.  Without vision, there is no hope of things ever being different, no sense of purpose. No hope.  No reason to keep going.

Doldrums - 2Vision casting is important.  We must help the team we lead keep focused on where they are going.  However, I have known some leaders who are so focused on the vision that they do not understand the daily needs of those they lead.  Without team building and working together with them through the daily routines and issues, the people feel abandoned. They lose respect for the leader and the team falls apart.  If a person in leadership focuses so completely on the future vision that they do not see the ominous iceberg in the water, they are leading the ship to sure destruction.

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From Co-Worker to Boss


Handshake - 20141009 - 2Congratulations!  You have just been promoted to manager in your department or at your company. Or, maybe you have made the decision to start your own company and many of your co-workers have such faith in you that they are joining you in your new venture.

You are about to start one of the biggest challenges of your life. You are moving from co-worker / friend to BOSS!

You remember all those late night phone calls with co-workers, after work drinks or quick conversations during lunch or in the hall about the boss and how each of you could do a better job? They aren’t going to stop. You are just no longer invited to the conversations because the conversation is about YOU.

I have been there and done that and frankly, failed miserably. This is not about what I did right or even wrong but what I would do differently if I had to do this over again.

Conversation - 1First, accept the fact that the conversation is happening and move on. Not every decision you will make will be popular and not every decision will be right. Remember you have information that your team members don’t have and that you are not perfect. You cannot stop them from meeting after work, or at lunch. Let it go.

Use what information you already have from those sessions in which you did participate. What did your co-workers really like about the previous boss? Maybe they always appreciated the fact that birthdays and work anniversaries were special occasions. The boss may have treated everyone to something special after the completion of big projects. Lunch or chair massages or gift cards. Go beyond duplicating, expand.

Can you make changes to what wasn’t liked?

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Leadership Principle in Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad - 1I just recently finished the last episode of the hit television show Breaking Bad.  Yeah, I know, it took me awhile.  Truth is, it took me so long to watch it because I almost quit watching it in the middle of season three.  Call me an old fuddy-duddy, (and by using that term I realize I am an old fuddy-duddy) but I had grown weary of the increasing violence, and the immorality and lewdness of the characters.  Most importantly, however, I had lost all respect for the character I assumed was the “hero” of the show.  I was rooting for Walter White from the beginning, but my ability to continue rooting for him eroded rapidly as he told one lie after another and performed acts of ever increasing selfishness.  That left me with no one to root for, and for me, having a rooting interest is an important aspect of a compelling television show.

Fortunately (although I would have lived had I not completed all the episodes), a friend of mine convinced me to finish watching the show to its end.  He assured me that I would find someone to root for, and he was right.  As my fealty for Walter White turned to disdain, my respect and admiration for his brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (who comes across as an uptight, know it all jerk in the first few seasons), grew.  Hank was the antithesis of Walter, and the juxtaposition between the two made a great dramatic foil for the writers of Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad - 2As I contemplated these two characters, and their diametrically opposite characteristics, I realized that the attributes exhibited by each provides a great insight into leadership. 

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Develop Your Own Financial Game Plan – The Beginning

Financial Game Plan - 1For many, the area of personal finance remains a mystery. Financial success seems elusive and nearly unattainable. Others think that things are fine in their world, that they’ll be one of the winners, beating the system. Yet the numbers that were true more than thirty five years ago when I secured my first licenses in the financial services world remain unchanged.

Out of every 100 people alive today in the United States, only one or two will become financially independent. Five or six more, with modest adjustments to their lifestyles, will be able to meet their needs for their allotted time, assuming no major economic upheavals. For the rest, their golden years are altogether different than what they had hoped for and dreamed about when they were young. Unfortunately these numbers, which have their root in reports generated by the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, apply equally to both Christians and non-Christians.

Financial Game Plan - 2So, what are we to do? How can we gain the understandings and insights needed and apply them effectively so that we can be assured not to be among the 92 to 94 percent? How can we lead ourselves and our families to different, better outcomes?

In the coming months, we will look at many of the tools, tactics and strategies that I have utilized over the years to help make a difference, one life and one family at a time. Occasionally you will find yourself nodding in agreement with me. But often you will find the thoughts and ideas shared to be contrary to “common wisdom” and the teachings of those who many view as the “Gurus of all things financial”. All I ask is that you keep an open mind.

So now, on to the beginning . . .

Please allow me to preface the core message in this posting with this observation:

Personal finance is a team sport!

What I mean is, if you have a spouse and/or children they should be part of the process. All too often, I meet with families where only one spouse handles the family finances. This can potentially be very damaging to the relationship between a husband and a wife and it eliminates the opportunity to parent and teach our children many critical skills they’ll need later in their lives, none of which will cross their paths at school.

Financial Game Plan - 3Before any substantive move in a more positive direction can begin, we must first understand exactly where we are now.

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Through What Scope Is Leadership Seen?

Leading Small - 1Which is better, leaders that have a huge following or the men and women that take the time to invest in those they come in constant contact with in everyday life?

This question has always troubled me until recently. I just finished a book that was given to me to help give me guidance on to how to lead in a small group setting called Lead Small by Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas. The book posed this question as well. I want to start by saying I think that we all need those leaders that gather large groups of people together and unite us. However, I believe that just because we are called to be leaders does not mean that the only way to be one is to gain a massive following. The book I was reading presented an idea that I had perhaps never thought of before; that in a bigger picture scope, the everyday people that choose to lead through everyday life to the people they come in contact with are just as effective, possibly even more effective, than those who lead big. To quote the book;

Leading Small - 3“Most people dream of finding an opportunity to do something BIG. To make a BIG change. To lead BIG. That’s why we accumulate Facebook friends and Twitter Followers, make videos in hopes of going viral, climb the corporate ladder, audition for “So You Think You Have the Voice To Dance with the Biggest Loser”. In fact most of us believe the best way to make a BIG difference is to get a big following. And when the masses don’t follow, when the 11’o’clock news isn’t knocking down the door, we try something else. Something BIG. But what if the things we consider BIG don’t matter as much as we think? What if the biggest difference is made by not doing something big at all? What if the biggest things are really accomplished by doing something small? When we lead small we realize that what we do for a few will always have more potential than what we do for many.”  

Pgs.18 Lead Small

Growing up, I was influenced by a lot of things.

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Leadership Language: Old & New – Part 1

LL Old & New Part 1 - 1We can attract people with our language and we can turn them off just as quickly with the words we use. Which ones are the right ones? Which ones will not only connect but communicate what we are intending? Furthermore what “baggage” do the words we use carry with them? I want to take a moment and consider the importance of words in leading others and how the right words can make something stick but just as quickly the wrong words could result in the loss of our influence and leadership in someone’s life.

There are certain words that I read that quickly turn me off: “Vision-casting, BHAG’s, Successful, Daring, Significant” and more. Now don’t get me wrong I see the value of each of these words. I have incorporated what they represent into my own life and leadership and I have taught them to others. However I do often shy away from people using them because of the abuse of them and the “used car-salesman” (no offense intended) impression that some leadership experts carry with them as they teach others how to manipulate (hm-hmmm, I mean lead) others. So is there anything wrong with these words? No. But when I use them could I just as quickly be turning people off to the message I carry because they are perhaps judging me in the same way I have just mentioned? So does that mean we need to get rid of these words, redefine them, redeem them or replace them? And is it really that important?

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A Charge to Lead!

A Charge to Lead! - 1

There was a great quote in my company newsletter last month. To anyone who doesn’t receive that newsletter, here it is.

“Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders”
-Tom Peters.

You may think that this makes no sense that any group must have one leader. But the reality is that any good leader will foster and develop other leaders thereby achieving far more through the group than they can on their own. Even more controversial is the belief that anyone, in whatever position they find themselves, can be a leader. I’ll restate that. Anyone can be a leader. I have seen many of our team members grow and achieve great things on the project on which I am now working. Their example makes them leaders.

A Charge to Lead! - 2Now for the harsh reality, not everyone will become a leader. Why?

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Some Thoughts on Hemingway and Hunters

Some Thoughts on Hemingway and Hunters - 1Recently, there has been somewhat of an uproar over police officers embracing a quote from an essay written by Ernest Hemingway. The quote reads, “There is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.” Many people seem to be frightened by an us versus them mentality that, without explanation, the quote seems to highlight. It has been said that it gives the appearance that police enjoy killing to those that do not truly understand the sheepdog mentality. Please allow me a few moments to explain it through the eyes of a veteran police officer/sheepdog/wolf hunter.

Although Hemingway was an avid hunter, you’ll note that at no point in the quote does Hemingway use the word killing. In fact, at no point in the essay does Hemingway mention killing a man. The majority of the essay is about fishing, hence the title “On the Blue Water.” The key point that people seem to take issue with is the word “hunt.” Merriam-Webster lists several definitions for the word. Here are a few:

  • to pursue with intent to capture
  • to search out
  • to attempt to find something

Some Thoughts on Hemingway and Hunters - 2In fact, Merriam-Webster uses the following as an example of the proper use of the word, “Police hunted the escaped prisoners through several states.” There are instances that the term is synonymous with killing, but when in modern times has that been the case in law enforcement? Even the media, which is so quick to attack our use of the quote, often reports that law enforcement officers are “hunting” for a suspect? Why then is it so shocking when we acknowledge that we are, in fact, hunting?

I suppose that it is because sometimes we are forced to kill.

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