Monthly Archives: September 2014


In an era of major league and collegiate sports where sustained failure of wins and losses are not accepted and tolerated for very long by owners or athletic directors, there is one thing that is constant and rings true…change!

How can a team have great success one year, and failure the next. Same players, same coaches, same leadership, different results?  There will always be debates and opinions as to why this happens, however this is what I do know, vision begins to change and leak. The mission becomes faint. The strategy is not clear any longer. Focus becomes blurred. Failure is lying in wait, crouching at the door.

Not long ago I read an article about the mega ocean liner Titanic. The Titanic was built in an era of big ships but with no technology available for the captain to see his way ahead. Radar was decades away from development. So as the Titanic was built and launched, its claim to being unsinkable was predicated on the toughness of the hull of the ship.

It is not surprising that the crew could not see an iceberg that was large above the water line…but much larger below the water line. Back then they could only see what their eyes could see.


There is so much to learn here about leadership and life. Let me suggest four:

1) When we cannot see clearly, we should exercise caution:  The Titanic’s crew could not see that far ahead, but they proceeded without caution. We may feel tough. We may feel unsinkable because of success. But if we don’t have clear vision, or if we cannot enunciate a clear vision, we are in danger if we rush ahead blindly. Vision leaks. Guard against it at all cost.

2) When we don’t pay attention to feedback, we can run aground:  The danger here is due to not recognizing the danger. Failure to seek feedback is folly. Failure to listen to it is foolishness. Regardless of how much success you have attained, you had better pay attention to feedback from those around you. Not doing so will cause you to run aground.

3) When we have vision, we need to clarify it regularly:  Instruments on the Titanic needed to be calibrated to verify accuracy. In life, we need to clarify our vision repeatedly in order to insure that we are on track with where we want to go. If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. Vision leaks. You can count on it! You cannot communicate it enough to those you are leading. Failure to constantly and consistently communicate the vision will only lead to failure. It will be just a matter of time.

4) When we have clarity, we need to practice humility:  Every person who is more confident in themselves than in the vision they espouse is vulnerable to prideful downfalls. Pay attention to whats happening in your life below the water line. Great leaders can crash in the blink of an eye. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Be humble and serve those you are leading. It will take you a long way in life. Like the Proverb say’s so clearly – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty attitude before a fall.”  

We all make choices as we navigate life. We all have an impact on others, whether it’s our family, friends or colleagues. It is vitally important for us to have a clear sense of ourselves, and a clear sense of our relationships with those we influence. If we have that clarity we will see success, but if we don’t, we may well crash into the iceberg of life.



What about you? Do you have a personal vision statement? Are you seeking feedback about your life’s direction? 




While out scouting this fall, I have connected with several baseball coaches and scouts. It is always good to see these guys and catch up with them. During this time of work and personal connections, several have shared with me how they are committed to the priority of leadership, however they do not view themselves as an effective leader, or in a few cases, not a leader at all. They say things like…

“I don’t have a leader title,”

“I don’t have anyone who reports to me.”

“I don’t have experience leading people.”

I used to say these things, as an excuse. I used to say I am not a leader. I used to believe that I wasn’t much of a leader at all. Do you know what happens when you believe that?

You’re lying to yourself. 

If you are married, you’re a leader to your spouse. You are a leader to your peers. You are a leader to your children. You are a leader at some level in your career. Whether you want to believe it or not, you have influence and you are a leader at some level.

Sometimes people within the middle of an organization have more leadership and influence than those with leadership titles.

John Maxwell says,

“What matters is that we are willing to do what it takes, to make a positive impact wherever we find ourselves in life – to add value in any way we can to others.” 

I believe we can all do this. We can be a leader, regardless of what our title says.

So, how can you be an effective leader and grow as a leader at the same time?

The following are five suggestions…

1) Take Ownership!  In your career, be responsible for your work. Regardless of what profession you are in, you own the work that you do. You own your process. When you do this, people start to notice, and you can help lead others to do the same. Take ownership of your work.

2) Lead by Example!  Actions speak louder than words. Be the positive voice on your team, department, or organization…not the negative one. Don’t be Eeyore or bah-humbug. Encourage others to look at situations with positive energy and outlook. Do your best to be the “cups half full – not half empty” person on your team.

3) Talk to Other Leaders!  Don’t expect anything in return. You will be surprised how many leaders are willing to talk to you, mentor you, and pour in to you. If they are an authentic leader, they will want to hear your ideas as well. They are typically more than happy to share what has worked for them. Carve out margin in your life to talk and surround yourself with other healthy leaders.

4) Offer Ideas, Don’t Just Report Problems!  Be sure to offer solutions. Some of the best solutions to challenges on a team come from the middle of the organization. Why? Because these are the people who know what truly happens on a day-to-day basis. They are in the trenches, so to speak. Leaders who are willing to listen can often create change with the right ideas and solutions.

5) Encourage Coworkers and Leaders!  Most people will encourage their co-workers. They work side by side with them. It should always be genuine and not just being PC. Personally, I try to be very cognoscente of this priority. Leaders rarely get encouragement and it can get very lonely at the top. They often become a dead leader running. Showing them you genuinely care and you are with them really helps. It breaths a breath of fresh air and energy in to their responsibility as a leader.

You are a leader. Believe you are a leader. Take a small step forward today. You will be amazed at what a difference it will make.

How have you led apart from your title? 



Recently I read a statement that sent me into evaluation mode. I’m not sure who to credit for the principle?  It’s not mine,  however I can tell you from experience that it is true.

Here it is . . . “People don’t leave organizations, they leave people.”

After reading that statement, you might be tempted to think it is your sole responsibility as the leader to keep everyone on your team or organization happy and satisfied.  It is not!

Regardless if you are a head baseball coach,  manager,  general manager,  scouting director, or an organizational leader in corporate america, your team or organization would probably be better off if some people left.

The truth is, some people will never be satisfied with your leadership. Consequently, they will complain, whine, gossip, criticize, and back bite without blinking an eye. There is “no one” and “no thing” that will satisfy them.

In such cases there is a high probability that it is not you who is the problem.  Don’t beat yourself up. Chances are when they go somewhere else they will not find peace and what they are looking for there either. The problem with that individual is an“I” issue not a “We” issue.

After you have first self evaluated, listened to wise counsel from a trusted accountability partner, and determined that you are not the heart of the problem – I say let them go!

 In fact, you might even consider kindly and respectfully inviting them to leave.  No one individual is greater than the whole.  Allowing them to stay around will only drain you emotionally, sap resources, and poison the culture of your team and/or organization.

Want to keep people?  Make it a priority to focus on people.  Because successful organizations are about relationships.

However, there are times when some people will suck the life out of you, your team, and/or organization.  Don’t let that happen.  Let them go.



What are some ways you deal with “high maintenance” people on your team or organization? 



Your heart is the most important leadership tool you have. It is not your leadership, knowledge, or skills. It is your heart that matters most of all. In our society today, exercising our physical heart is the “in” thing. Without proper exercise, our hearts will eventually give way to disease and die. However, that same mindset is rarely taken in to consideration regarding the condition of our spiritual heart. Not much thought is given to guarding it at all cost. King Solomon said it best: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

This is necessary for at least three reasons:

  1. Your heart is extremely valuable: We don’t guard worthless things. I take my garbage to the street every Wednesday night. It is picked up on Thursday morning. It sits on the sidewalk all night, completely unguarded. Why? Because it is worthless.

    Not so with your heart. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self—the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people.

    Just like your physical body, if your heart—your spiritual heart—dies, your leadership dies. This is why Solomon says, “Above all else.” He doesn’t say, “If you get around to it” or “It would be nice if.” No, he says, make it your top priority.

  2. Your heart is the source of everything you do: King Solomon says it is the “wellspring of life.” In other words, it is the source of everything else in your life. Your heart overflows into thoughts, words, and actions. In Georgia, where I live, we have many natural springs, where water flows to the surface of the earth from deep under the ground. It then accumulates in pools or runs off into creeks and streams. If you plug up the spring, you stop the flow of water. If you poison the water, the flow becomes toxic. In either situation, you threaten life downstream. Everything depends on the condition of the spring. Likewise, if your heart is unhealthy, it has an impact on everything else. It threatens your family, your friends, your influence, your career, and, indeed, your legacy. It is, therefore, imperative that you guard it at all cost.

  3. Your heart is under constant attack: When Solomon says to guard your heart, he implies that you are living in a combat zone—one in which there are casualties. Many of us are oblivious to the reality of this war. We have an enemy who is “hell” bent on our destruction. He not only opposes God, but he opposes everything that is aligned with Him—including us. He uses all kinds of weapons to attack our heart. These attacks often come in disappointment, discouragement, or even disillusionment. In these situations, it’s tempting to quit—to walk off the leadership field and surrender. Don’t do it! If you and I are going to succeed as leaders—and survive as individuals—we must guard our hearts. If we lose heart, we have lost everything.



      What action steps do you implement in your life of leadership that helps you “guard your         heart?” 




Recently, my wife and I visited our daughter, Aynsley while in flight training school for the USAF at the NAS (Navel Air Station) in Pensacola, FL. It was quite an experience visiting the base and observing how structured, detailed, and organized the process of military flight training can be to your average american civilian.

Aynsley USAF Pic

My daughter shared with me the five “p’s” (Professional, Patient, Persistent, Polite, and Painful)  and how the process of developing a fully trained aviator pilot and/or navigator can be developed around these five principles.

In the week following, I pondered those five “p’s” and how they can have a similar impact on a leaders life with those they lead and influence. An authentic leader needs to be…

Professional: Life as an aviator in the military is not just a “job.” It’s a profession. The training to invest in and develop these pilots and navigators is serious business because our country and people all over the world are counting on them. The same is true for a leader. It’s vital that you take the process of leadership serious. Don’t look at it as a “job,” but a profession. Learn all you can to develop your skills to lead. Read, listen to podcast, study leadership resources, surround yourself with authentic leaders, etc…Be the best leader you can be because people not only close to you, but all over the world are counting on you to lead well.

Patience: The training of a military aviator is long, arduous, tiring, draining, sleepless, and a flat grind. The commanders, instructors, and students alike must be patient with themselves and with each others. Move to fast and you can fail. Move to slow and it can cost you. It’s a journey not a sprint. The same is true for a leader. Patience must be priority for the leader and lead-ee. Leadership will cost you something. Being led will cost you something. It can be a grind and frustrating for both at times, however the benefits and impact far out weigh the development process. Patience is key!

Persistence: One thing I learned while observing my daughter and meeting a few of her peers in military flight training school was their focus, determination, discipline, and persistence to the cause. They all have a shared vision. Nothing and no one will detour them and their persistence to be the best. The same is true for a leader. Leadership can and will be messy. You’re out front taking hits, however it is priority that you remain persistent. Focused, disciplined, and determined. Not only to honor your own commitment to leadership, but to those you are intentionally leading and committed to investing in.

Polite: Observing the military aviators in training, I noticed how polite and respectful they were. They made us feel at home just by being polite. They would shake your hand, look you in the eye, and say yes sir and no sir. The characteristics of being polite as a leader is key. People you are leading and influencing really do not care how much you know – until they know just how much you care for them and about them. By being polite, humble, caring, and respectful, your leadership influence will make a bigger impact than you will ever realize.

Painful: Training as a military aviator is hard. It’s even painful at times. Long hours in the class room, books, simulator, PT’s, and in the aircraft itself can be a challenge to ones physical and emotional fitness and stress level. The weak are discarded, and sadly, some may even choose to walk away from their dream. I learned a long time ago that the pain of discipline is always LESS than the pain of regret! The same can be true for a leader. Quitting should never be an option. As John Maxwell was famous for saying – “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I couldn’t agree more. Being a leader is painful at times, however the pain of leadership is always much LESS than the pain of regret. Never, never compromising your character and conduct as a leader. Those you are leading and influencing are watching your life –  A lot more is caught…than taught!

Professional, Patience, Persistence, Polite, and Painful. Five characteristics that military aviators and leaders have in common. Like the old saying – “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

I encourage you to stay the course, keep your hand to the plow…and lead!



Are there any additional thoughts or ideas you feel leaders and military aviators in training have in common?