Forging a Leader

Forging a Leader - 1There has been a lot of talk on this forum and other forums about being a leader. We have discussed how to become a leader and what a good leader looks like. But I am not sure we have talked enough about the pain and suffering becoming a leader can be. I’m not talking about the “pain in the rear” you get from sitting in a seminar about leadership. I’m talking about the trial by fire and the true forging that develops real leaders. I’m talking about Lincoln and the Civil War, I’m talking about Kennedy and PT 109, and I’m talking about Reagan and the Berlin Wall.

Just to make sure we all understand what I mean, let’s discuss this word that I am using — forging.

Forging is one of the oldest known metal working processes. Traditionally it is performed with a hammer and an anvil and the application of different levels of heat. A forge is a type of hearth used for the application of heat to metals. So I am speaking metaphorically about using a hammer, an anvil and heat to create a leader. Sound difficult?

Ok, so we aren’t really going to use a hammer anvil and forge to create a leader. But I bet if you asked some true leaders, they have felt the heat of the fire, and the pressure of the hammer. I once wrote an article here about why anyone would want to be a leader. I have to admit, it was a little tongue in cheek, but I was hoping it would drive some conversation. This is not that kind of article. This, reader, is about whether or not you are truly prepared for what it takes to be a leader?

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Today Is Your Chance


Election Day 1It seems that a lot of leaders are hiding behind a mask, which says leadership, but does not necessarily represent it.

Today is Election Day, Tuesday, November 4. There is a lot of talk about leadership and what it means, if we are going in the right direction or not. I’ve been involved in a few conversations on the subject, friends, coworkers etc. I get mixed responses to my question, what is leadership to you? Are you a leader? Do you think like a leader? Do you want to be a leader? Is leadership even needed? So on this day of change, what does leadership mean to you?

I typically leave the political commentary to more experienced authors on this blog, but there has been so much talk lately about the elections, I felt the need to start a discussion. What I want to know is, can we actually effect change with the election? Or will it take something more drastic?

Election Day 2Now I am not proposing a revolution, but I do wonder how long the current state of affairs in this country can continue. Based on today’s political climate, what is leadership going to look like for our children, our grandchildren? How do we prepare them to see through the veil of false leadership in the future?

I have to believe we can change the world around us. I have to believe our founding fathers thought enough of our voice to have elections. I also believe that contributing to process is everyone’s right and responsibility. If we didn’t believe these things, what kind of life would we have?

So to anyone that reads this today, whatever your political affiliation, go vote. Sometimes it can be a tedious process, but so is the line at Starbucks. Skip one cup of coffee today and get to the polls.

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Passive Leadership


Passive Leadership - 1I am currently involved in a men’s study at my church and I have been having a hard time engaging with the group. It is because, honestly, it’s boring. I had committed to a friend and Pastor that I would be involved and engaged. But the leader, as great a person as he is, is difficult to listen to. I had expressed these issues to my wife recently and she thought I needed to be more open minded about it. I was willing to give it another chance and I was sitting in there the other night and heard someone on the video say, “The biggest issue with men and their Christianity is passivity.”

I will have to admit it took me a few days for that to sink in, and what I have come up with is this. They are right. As our passivity grows, so does our acceptance of passivity. So as I thought about this over the weekend this is what came to me.

I researched “Passive Leadership” and I found the term “passive patriot”. It spoke to me. A passive patriot is a citizen who fails to combine knowledge and action to maintain democracy. The research behind this is expansive and certainly beyond the focus of this blog. However, what I couldn’t shake from my mind is the parallel to the current state of leadership in our organizations and in our country.

Passive Leadership - 2We have too many passive leaders failing to shift away from applying 20th century leadership practices to 21st century problems. Such problems cannot be solved relying on the familiar. Regardless of whether it be hierarchy, too much work, not enough time, or not enough resources, we need active leaders. The lull of passive leadership is convincing and believable.

Yet the level of inaction at the leadership level to tackle such problems is weakening organizations. In the 21st century, knowledge, and the application of it to create value for customers, is king. Underlying this reality is the acceptance that people create the profit. Without knowledgeable, enthused people, we will suffer.

Will you or your team be lulled to sleep by passive leadership and erode your value in the marketplace? Will you chase away talented employees? Will you create committed followers or customers?

We need today more leaders willing to act first and then figure out what’s next and not accept failure or misunderstanding. You can be one of them. Perhaps you already are. Many of the big problems facing businesses will simply expand in complexity the longer they are ignored or accepted.

Passive Leadership - 3You don’t need a CEO, executive, or a director to inspire you to get into action and do something to address the company’s problems. You can decide today to lead locally: lead your team to figure out what problems are limiting the value you create for your customers. And then find a solution.

Getting your hand slapped is a requirement in leadership. It’s a full contact sport. It’s standing for something bigger than you. Tackling 21st century leadership problems is worth getting your hand slapped over. It’s worth finding and using your voice.

It begins with looking at where your passive leadership is holding you back and deciding where you can turn up the volume in your leadership. Stop accepting excuses for failure. Get in the trenches with your people and lead from the front.

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A Cosmic Do-Over?

Cosmic Do-Over - 1In the sermon I heard on Sunday morning, there was a lot of talk about going back in time to live our lives differently. I was moved by some of these ideas and thought to myself. “Would I have done anything differently?” The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I would do some things differently.

For instance, I probably would have been a little more respectful of other people. I probably would have tried to be a better student. And there are maybe a few other things I would have done differently.

As I sit here this evening trying to get my thoughts on paper, I am thinking that I know myself pretty well, and given a second opportunity, I probably would do the exact same things over again.

All of this talk about going back in time and changing how you lived your life made me think of this poem by the great Native American warrior, Tecumseh. It was made famous as the ending to the movie “Act of Valor”. I felt like it fits because he implored those that followed him that they should live well. He knew that they wouldn’t get a second chance.

Cosmic Do-Over - 2

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect the views of others and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, and beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long, and its purpose; the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day you go over the great divide.

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When should a leader allow another to lead?

Allowing others to lead - 1I have a friend, whom you may know; they contribute to this site as well. Maybe I should back up a little; first of all, I should say a good friend. Second of all, I don’t have a lot of friends. I guess some people don’t care for my humor; some people don’t care for my personality. I hold my good friends in very high regard and trust and fully reveal myself to very few people. What I really want to reference is how this friend signs off on all of his electronic correspondence. I am not sure how many of his “people” read his past the end, but his electronic signature includes something I have never really given a lot of thought to until recently…  “Leader / Follower / Guide

Now, if any of you know who I am talking about, the LEADER is easy to see. For those of you that don’t really know him, he also has a heart for leading young people, especially young men, so I think that is the GUIDE part. But what I really would like to talk about is the FOLLOWER part.

I have been part of some pretty good teams in my life. I have even been asked to lead a team on occasion. I have also felt lead to guide some folks through some things. But I have always had issues with voluntarily following someone else. I chose the word voluntarily because I have had some coaches, I have some commanding officers, and I have had some bosses that I would have stormed the gates of hell with or for. But it’s the times when I have to follow someone into something I may not want to do, or maybe “Let them lead me somewhere” that I may not have wanted to go, because it was important to them.

Allowing others to lead - 2I said all of that to get to this. At some point there is going to be an opportunity for you to lead by following. I can’t tell you how this is going to look. But I will lay out what it looked like for me. In the last couple of years my church has gone to a “Life Group” Sunday School scenario. I am thinking it is a plan to drive more interaction between people outside of the church. Personally, I think it has separated the church into even more “cliques” and I for one, needed the actual Sunday School setting on Sunday morning to get myself prepared to receive the Word in the morning worship service. So, needless to say, I have resisted participating in life groups. I now realize that this may be to the detriment of my closest team, my family.

I have since relinquished the leadership of this subject to my wife. She has recognized our need to be involved and has found a life group that she truly enjoys. So what is my role? Support her, follow her and help her guide my children.

Allowing others to lead - 3Leaders, I ask you, is there a situation in your life when it isn’t your leadership that is needed but maybe your example of following another? Leadership cannot be conceited, it cannot be static, and it cannot be shallow. Leaders, we have to learn to lead with our hearts, and learn to FOLLOW.

Yours in Leadership,

Billy Long

Striving to Lead / Learning to Follow / In need of Guidance



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The Daddy Daughter Disconnect

I started this as an attempt to put together a piece on “Leading My Daughters”, in the course of my normal research I found this article and it brought me to tears. Some of you have daughters, some of you don’t, but this is the truth, they are different, and leading them is difficult. I hope this means as much to you as it did me.

It is called, “Daddies, Please Hear Us!

Daddy Daughter Disconnect - 1Fathers, this writing is on behalf of your daughters who need you desperately. These words are not meant to blame, hurt, or point fingers, but to rattle you into responsiveness, to shake you into action. We daughters are a national dilemma. You won’t hear about us on the six o’clock news, but we are here

We are living under your roof, eating from the same dinner table as you, pouring from the same milk carton. We are spending at least eighteen years, or 6,570 days with you at home. We pass you in the hall and wonder why we aren’t enough to catch your eye. We wonder what on earth a television set, a newspaper, has that we don’t. We are curious why you don’t get fired up for your daughters like you do the big game.

We are attuned to the fact you don’t seem very interested in our words, our feelings, our deepest convictions and doubts. We sob on the inside.

Daddy Daughter Disconnect - 2When you ignore us you are changing who we are. You are changing who we were made to be, and not for the better. You may not see any results of your emotional absence now, but soon you will. When we drink too much, use drugs, and have premarital sex, then you will see. When we cheat, lie, drive drunk, choose to date and marry mean guys, and get pregnant out of wedlock, then you will see. You will see our low self-esteem manifested. Our insecurity will come to life and you will probably be mad at us. You shouldn’t be. You should be mad at yourself for not paying more attention to us when we were little girls.

Fathers, we are hurting.

Fathers, we thank you for the education, our shelter, food, and clothes, but fathers, we need more.

We are tender-hearted, but you wouldn’t know because you’ve never stared into our hearts.

We are not like boys. Maybe boys can be tough, but we need our daddy’s tenderness.

We need your comfort when we hurt.

We need you to love us dearly and show love constantly so we know what to look for in a man when we grow up. By constantly, I mean constantly. Daily. Hourly. All the time.

Daddy Daughter Disconnect - 3And when you are home with us, really be home with us. Reading the newspaper and going to bed, all the while not saying a word to us, is not being with us.

We feel ignored.

We feel sad.

You are making us feel insecure about ourselves. And worst of all, you are shaping—or destroying—our image of what fatherhood is.

Yes, you are shaping us. What we will become is in your hands. Don’t you know that? You are literally molding us like clay.

Maybe you wanted us, maybe you didn’t. The fact remains WE ARE HERE.

We are humans, we are alive and we need more from you.

Maybe you relate better to boys. We are not boys. We need more from you. The way you treat our mothers is crucial to us knowing how to develop a loving relationship of our own. When you hurt our mothers in any way, we do not like it. Our mothers have been there, trying to fill in the void you choose to leave every day of our lives. Do you not get that?? You should bend over backward thanking our mothers for picking up your slack.

Most importantly of all, we see our Heavenly Father in the same light we see our earthly fathers. If you ignore us, we then believe God ignores us. If you hurt us, we view God as one who hurts us. If you act like you don’t want to be around us, we believe God must not want to be around us either. You are the link! You hold the key!

There is a song by John Mayer called “Daughters.” Search for it, buy it, and listen to it.

We are very, very delicate creatures.

And we need you.

That is the bottom line.

We are not trying to hurt you or tear you down.

But we are demanding you pay attention to us.

Daddy Daughter Disconnect - 4If you don’t, we will not grow emotionally and that will affect the rest of our lives, our future mates, our future children and all of our relationships forever.

Please spend as much time with us as possible. Quality time.

Tell us we are beautiful.

Tell us we are talented.

Tell us you love us more than you ever imagined possible.

Tell us.
If we don’t hear good things from you about us we will not grow emotionally or spiritually and this will affect us physically. We can’t stress this enough!

We will turn to other sources to make us feel good, whether it is right or wrong.

Then you will be mad at us for turning to those things, but the reality is, if you had really formed close, loving, honest, genuine relationships with us, we wouldn’t have sought those things out.

These boys at least make us feel special. You never did!

Alcohol and drugs at least take our minds off of our depression and anxiety that you brought upon us by ignoring us all these years.

You see, fathers, its really simple.

Just pay attention.

And love us.

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All men dream

All Men Dream - 1

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who only dream by night in the dusty recesses of there minds, wake in the day to find it was in vain. But dreamers of the day, they are dangerous men, for they may act on their dream with open eyes, and make their dream reality.”

T.E. Lawrence

Men, be a “Tangible Leader” today.  Find some way or someone to make difference with. Be a Leader of substance.  Make a physical change in the world around you.

I apologize that this isn’t a long philosophical post. But this is where my heart is this morning. Go and affect someone’s life or something in your life today.

Just one thing, maybe find another and do it again tomorrow. You will be surprised how the ripple of change will work.

Have a great Tuesday.


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Shared Leadership

Sharing - 1It seems to me that the very meaning of leadership is someone that leads. So how could it be possible to share leadership? I am thinking shared leadership is “one too many cooks in the kitchen”. So, is sharing leadership an acceptable model. Could it work?

I don’t know, but let’s talk about it.

The all-knowing Wikipedia says “Shared leadership is leadership that is broadly distributed, such that people within a team and organization lead each other”. I guess what I am thinking is a little closer to home. As I came up with the thoughts that generated the start to this piece, I realized there are lots of things that I discuss with my wife, but leadership has never been one of them. Why not? Aren’t we really sharing the role of leader in our family?

Shared leadership involves maximizing all of you resources in an organization, team, family, group by empowering individuals and giving them an opportunity to take leadership positions in their areas of expertise. With more complex problems, issues and markets increasing the demands on leadership, the job in many cases is simply too large for one individual.

Sharing - 2Sharing leadership isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible, and in many cases, highly successful. For instance,

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Authority and Leadership

Authority - 1Imposing your authority does not make you a leader.

I was recently engaged in a conversation with another leader here at Leadership Voices about the differences between authority and leadership. I made the point that having authority does not necessarily make a person a good leader. Likewise, you do not have to have authority in order to be a good leader.

That sounded like a good topic for our discussion here. So, what are the differences and similarities between authority and leadership?

The wonderful internet, primarily the free Merriam Webster dictionary, describes authority as the power to give orders, make decisions and or the power or right to direct or control someone or something. They define leadership as a position as a leader of a group or organization, or the power or ability to lead other people.

I think we would all agree that true leaders have some authority and that there is some inherent leadership that comes with authority. However I would like to talk about the other group that is people with authority that are definitely not leaders.

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell writes “Leadership is influence – Nothing more, nothing less.” I didn’t necessarily buy that in the beginning, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this:

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Seriously, why do we lead?

Seriously why - 1Why do we lead?

This will mark the second time today and the fourth time in the past two days I have started, renamed and changed this article in an attempt to get my point across. I realize that in December of 2012 I authored a very tongue in cheek article about “Why would someone want to be a leader?” However, this time, I am seriously asking the question “Why do you lead?

What deep down causes you or gives you the need or the drive to lead. I don’t think I am talking to business owners because their leadership drives the bottom line. I think I am talking to normal guys like you and like me, fathers, 9-5-ers, husbands, and weekend warriors. Why do you do the things you do?

Seriously why - 2I don’t want to blow my own horn here. I mean to be as humble as possible. But I try to set the right example for my kids. I try to be the leader I think they deserve and want or need. What I mean by all that is, if someone needs help and I am able to provide it, I try to help them. Everything from running to the dance studio at 9:00 pm because a mother has left her dome light on and her car battery is dead, or if one of our elders has trouble getting from the car to door of the church, or if my neighbor who had a stroke years ago, needs help around the house.

But I have realized that I may do these things for selfish reasons. I feel as though in my head, I would want someone to help my family if I was not available. Maybe it is also a little pay it forward as there are folks out there that have helped me in the past.

I heard once, that true character, was the act of doing something for someone who could never repay you. I wonder, could I change that a little bit, to suit leadership?

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