Category: Essentials

Essentials To Leadership #4

Essentials to life and leadership are the basis upon which we survive and succeed. Water is to life what character is to leadership. The sun brings to life what vision brings to leadership. Enzymes provide to life what passion supplies to leadership. To briefly summarize, the three essentials to leadership we have considered involve character, vision and passion.

The fourth essential to life is air. It is almost humorous to state the obvious, but how do we know air is essential to life? Well, just try to hold your breath for more than five minutes. Seems pretty obvious does it not?

I learned some powerful lessons in a scuba diving course several years ago. One of the exercises involved sitting on the bottom of the harbor. Each student held the hand of a buddy behind them while the oxygen tank was turned off. Once the student experienced what it felt like to run out of oxygen, they would squeeze the buddies hand and they would turn the valve on to release the flow of oxygen from the tank.

The word “interesting” would be an understatement to characterize the experience. I remember vividly when my buddy turned the valve off and for a few seconds I began thinking, “hey, I can breathe under water.” I guess I was convinced at some point I would take a deep breath and be able to hold it for a period of time before needing to squeeze my buddies hand. If you have ever participated in this type of exercise, you know exactly what happened next. While I was thinking I was aqua man, as I was about to take my next breath, all of a sudden there was nothing. It felt like someone had their hands around my throat. The ability to even try to take a breath was gone. I am sure my buddy must have thought I was about to die as I tried to crush their hand. All I wanted was to breathe and would do whatever I had to in order to get the life giving source of oxygen into my lungs.

The necessity of air provides a great foundation to understanding the fourth essential to leadership…goals. David Schwartz wrote, “goals are as essential to leadership as air is to life.” After a brief exercise on the ocean floor, I certainly had a better perspective of the analogy.

Narrowing down the significance of goals in leadership is an incredible task. Goals are more than a dream or wish. Goals are objectives stemming from leadership vision. Goals serve to provide purpose and direction. Goals establish priorities, unity, efficient use of time, and aid in charting the future. With this in mind, several factors need to be considered regarding goals.

The most common approach to goals is referred to as SMART goals. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Time bound. At another time, it will be important to look at each in detail. For now, the ideas must speak for themselves.

When considering goal setting and goal achieving, it is necessary to examine the plans for reaching goals through SWOT analysis. SWOT analysis looks at the goal(s) and examines the development of programs within the plan to reach the goal(s) by the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Realizing there are hundreds of ideas regarding how to set and achieve goals, a few important areas should be considered:

1)  Start at the finish line: In Stephen Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the second habit is to begin with the end in mind. What do you want people to say about you and your character at your funeral? Whatever it is, begin now to work on living it. The same principle is true with goals for any individual or organization.

2)  Understand where you begin: In the movie “Magnum Force,” Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) tells the mayor and his lieutenant,  “a good man’s gotta know his limitations.” What are your strengths and weaknesses? Without knowing personal and team strengths and/or weaknesses, obstacles are bound to occur that could and can be prevented.

3)  Manage your time well: Time management is vital to the success of achieving goals. However, developing time bound goals involves establishing priorities. Leaders must know what must be done first.

4)  WRITE IT DOWN: A study conducted at Dominican University has proven a substantial difference when students wrote down their goals versus students who did not. The results establish a precedence for anyone who leads…write down your goals.

5)  Sustain motivation: It is easy to build up morale and excitement to begin a project, but to sustain it is another issue all together. Determine from the beginning how and where points of evaluation will be needed and what will be done to sustain motivation toward the goal.

Essentials To Leadership #3

As water is the substance of life, so character is the substance of leadership.  The sun provides light making it possible for us to see where we are going.  Therefore, leadership needs vision, vision to see where we are going.  As well, a leader’s vision makes it possible for others to see where they are going.  Water / character and sun / vision are two essentials to life and leadership.

Another essential to life is enzymes.  Enzymes are essential because they are the digestive agent in all natural foods.  They aid in the digestive process, but there are also enzymes involved in working to build and stabilize our immune system.  Pam Omidyar, founder of HopeLab, claims we should all be enzymes.  “Enzymes are the catalysts that make possible biochemical reactions.  Enzymes increase the rate of a reaction, but are not themselves consumed by the reaction…In short, enzymes are nature’s activists.”

As enzymes are essential to life, the nature of enzymes describes another essential to leadership…passion.  In fact leadership has been defined as “people who leave their footprints in their areas of passion,” Jonathan Byrnes.  Passion is the fuel for leadership vision. Passion is the activist behind the achievement of goals.  Passion changes lives.  In reality, how can a leader change the lives of others if their own life has not first been changed?  Byrnes continues to describe eight characteristics needed to make paradigmatic change.

Ask yourself, “what am I passionate about in life and work?”  There should be something exciting about waking up each day.  When was the last time you could not sleep because of something you were excited about?  John Maxwell reminds us, “a leader with great passion and few skills always outperforms a leader with great skills and no passion.”  Passion is the driving motivation within leaders.  Passion gets them up and moves them ahead.

Apathy and indifference destroy passionate leadership.  The Bible reminds us of the dangers and consequences of both.  Jesus addressed the nature of this problem with the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22.  The result of the Laodicean attitude created self-reliance and a blindness to their own true needs.  Because the Laodiceans were so lukewarm, Jesus said, “I will vomit you out of my mouth,” (v. 16).

John Wesley said, “when you set yourself on fire, people will come to watch you burn.”  Give it some thought!  If you and I are going to be the activist as leaders, passion is a must.  How can you and I have the kind of passion to bring success to leadership?

1.  Set yourself on fire. Determine what it is you really like.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to have and enjoy success in leadership without doing what you really like.  What could you not stop doing regardless of the consequences?  Passion is the difference maker in your life and it will make a difference in the lives of others.

2.  Crank up the heat. What can you spend hours and hours working on and never get tired of doing?  The answer will be found in the areas surrounding what you really like to do above anything else.  When you fan this flame the impossibility factor is removed.

3.  Find passionate people. Passion is contagious.  Spend time with passionate people and be infected by their influence.

4.  Share it with others. Light the fire in others.  Share and inspire others with the passion driving your life.

Essentials To Leadership #2

Our lives are generally divided into components essential to the whole of life.  When approaching the subject of leadership, just as there are essential components to life, we find certain components essential to the success of our growth as leaders.  There are four essentials to life; water, sun, enzymes and air.  These essentials align themselves beautifully to the essentials of leadership.

We have already discussed how water is essential to life.  As water supplies the substance of life, so character supplies the very substance of our leadership.  Character is the very core of leadership.   Character is essential to our development as leaders.  However, water / character only provide one essential component.

A second essential to life is the sun.  Without the sun, life would be impossible.  The sun provides benefits to all life, as well as, all of life. One of the most important benefits is light.  Light enables us to see where we are going.  I once toured the Cave of the Winds near Colorado Springs.  The guide took the group to an area in the cave where the lights were suddenly turned off.  I cannot remember ever experiencing anything like that moment.  I could not see the movement of my hand in front of my face…with my eyes open.  It was frightening.  Everyone was afraid to move.  The guide said, “if you remain in this type of darkness for 30 days you will go blind and if you remain in this darkness for 90 days, you will go mad.”  I learned quickly how light enables us to see our direction.

As essential as the sun is for life, so “vision” is to leadership.  The consequences of not having vision can be seen in the words of Solomon, “where there is no vision, the people perish” (Pro. 29:18).

In leadership, vision has been defined as “the art of seeing the invisible.  In this respect, vision is not just seeing, it is not just “sight.” Instead, vision is insight. It is the ability to see something that only you can see, something that others do not see because this something does not have a physical reality.  It is something you see in your mind’s eye, something that exists in your imagination, something that is within yourself” Alain Briot.

The essential nature of vision has been expressed by the President of the University of Notre Dame, Theodore Hesburgh.  He said “the very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.”

Based on the ideas presented by Briot and Hesburgh, we can say, leadership vision is more than the ability to know the direction.  Vision is knowing the direction and the ability to communicate the direction in such a way others can see, and aspire to achieve in a united effort.  Perhaps this explains why Hanz Finzel describes how the “higher one is in leadership, the more their work is about the future.”

Vision sees the future and speaks as if present.

Vision provides purpose and direction.

Vision drives the actions of life.

Vision powers enthusiasm and commitment.

Vision challenges followers to do something great.

Vision is essential to the success of leadership.  Describing the essential nature of vision is not the challenge.  The challenge is “how” can vision be developed?

1.  Developing vision begins with a self-examination.  Know who you are and who you want to be.

2.  Learn from leaders who have vision.  Spend as much time as possible with leaders who have demonstrated vision.

3.  Establish a vision that is concrete.  Abstract ideas can lead to “fuzzy” leadership.

4.  Be committed to give the time and energy to see it through.

5.  To complete the process, share it with others.  Vision can only be fully realized when others can see it and share in it.

The Four Essentials of Leadership

Several years ago I learned about four essentials to life: water, sun, enzymes and air.  Each part plays a very significant role in our ability to survive on this earth.  Based on these essentials to life I began to consider parallels to leadership.  I have read several books, articles and website posts dealing with hundreds of ideas surrounding leadership.  Perhaps you are familiar with the laws, principles, qualities and challenges mentioned in one way or another.  Hundreds of great ideas have been presented in an attempt to help develop leaders.

After reading much of the material available, I began to reason, why not narrow it down to just the essentials?  Is it possible to take the bulk of the ideas available and really come up with four areas about leadership to help develop the type of leaders needed today?  With this in mind, I began to consider the four essentials to life and how they might line up with four essentials to leadership.  I wanted to find four essentials worth investing into successful leadership.  It was time to intensify the study and begin to cut away the baggage to really focus on the bottom line.  Corporately, it would be considered making it “lean.”

The result of the research, discussion with other leaders, much prayer and thought, will be the subject of The Leadership Fund for the next few weeks.  Each post will deal with the essentials of life and leadership beginning with “water.”  A little research quickly reveals how vital water is to life. One website narrowed the value of water to one simple statement, “where there is water, there is life,”.  Not only is the earth mostly water, so is our physical body. Consider how 60% of the body, 70% of the brain, 90% of the lungs and 83% of cells is made up of water.  It could easily be said that water is the very substance of life.

Just as water is the substance of life,  “character” is the substance of leadership.  Where there is character, there is leadership. Scripture would indicate character is more than words, as David writes in the Psalms, “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?  He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart,” (Ps. 15:1-2).  David uses three words to describe the action of character: “walks, works, and speaks.”  Character puts words into action.  To quote Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in The Leadership Challenge, “the video needs to match the audio.”

Since character is indicated by action, the conclusion, as stated in John Maxwell’s 21 Indispensable Qualities of Leadership, “talent is a gift, but character is a choice.”   Character is indicated by the actions created from the choices we make.  With each choice, character is developed.  Everyone is aware of leaders who have great natural ability, talent to influence hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. Consider the talent of a professional athlete like Tiger Woods.  His talent is beyond what many could only dream to possess.  However, recent events in his life have shown flaws in his character.  His immoral indiscretion has damaged his influence and revealed volumes about his character.

The essential foundation to developing leadership involves character.  While I am not one to put stock in fortune cookies, about a year ago I found one very interesting.  It said, “God gives us one face and we make for ourselves another.”  To understand the essential nature of character to leadership, it should be mentioned that true character must be defined as being trustworthy.  How can this type of character be developed?  Consider the need to apply three specific areas.

First, before making any decision consider Suzy Welch’s “10-10-10 principle.” The principle involves asking the following questions: Can I live with this decision/choice 10 minutes from now?  Can I live with this decision/choice 10 months from now?  Can I live with this decision/choice 10 years from now?  Often times, it is easy to answer the first and second questions.  However, few ask the third question and answer honestly without considering the outcome of the present choice.

Second, take inventory of our values.  Solomon wrote, “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth,” (Pro. 22:1).  What is more valuable, character or achievement?  Character or money?  Character or popularity?

Third, strive for consistency. Hypocrisy destroys character.  Our word must be our bond.  Jesus taught the need for us to let our yes mean yes and our no mean no.  Our character on the job, at home, with neighbors, in the community, or around Christians should be the same.  The type of language we use, the attitudes we demonstrate, and our conduct should all measure up to our belief system.

The first essential of leadership is “character.”  My prayer is for all of us to develop the character spiritual leaders need to glorify God and provide for the needs of the 21st century.