The topic of leadership has been and continues to be one of the most vital
topics in human history. From ancient civilizations to modern day multi-national
corporations, men and women of passion, fervor and zeal have sought to discover
the secrets of moving others beyond the gray of their mundane reality to the rich
array of colors that embody the palate of the extraordinary life.
Every organization or collection of people, from large to small, requires
ardent and skilled leaders. It has been said that everything rises and falls on
leadership, and it is true. Every group – families, cities, churches, associations and
yes, even nations – fulfills its purposes and potential based on the leadership it is
As leaders we are given the charge, responsibility, and the privilege to see
grand visions, to dream lofty dreams, to forge new ground, and to challenge and
encourage those who would follow our leadership to ascend the heights with us. We
beckon them to come. We implore them. All for their own good. This is to lead them
toward their possibilities.
Be assured that there will be a leader of every group. There will be those who
influence others, even if you don’t. There may even be unscrupulous people who use
their abilities to lead others astray. The quote “All it takes for evil to prevail is for
the good man to do nothing,” remains true today, as it has through the annals of
time. This is the compelling motive for you to rise up and lead the way for others.
Our families depend on it.
Our community groups depend on it.
Our nations depend on it.
People will follow you for two reasons: They follow you because of your
character, for who you are. They also follow you for your skills, for what you can
do. Make it your every effort to impart skillful and honorable leadership for them
that would look to you for your wisdom, your guidance and your belief in the
promise of the human spirit.
Someone will lead. Will it be you? If not you, then who will lead? If you will
not lead now, then when?
Today, more than ever, you are needed. Your strong character is needed.
Your finely honed skills are needed. I know you will rise to the challenge.
Lead boldly. Lead with faith. Lead others to the pinnacle of the human existence.
This is the highest calling and the reward is of the utmost kind.
Before you become the leader you want to be:
1. Count the cost. Leadership is hard. There will be times that you say, “Leadership
isn’t worth it. These people are crazy and I don’t deserve this.” It is true. You don’t
deserve it. But you choose it. You choose it because you want to lead people. You
want to improve their lives. You see the higher ground that they cannot see and you
desire to take them there. It will take time. It will take money. It will sap your
strength and energy. Count the cost, my friend. Leadership is not for the weak and
timid. Yes, the rewards are great, but so are the sacrifices. Prep yourself for the cost
2. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Too many people dive into trying to lead
and end up dying out because they were not honest with themselves about their
strengths and weaknesses. They get going and realize that they should have
strengthened themselves in certain areas because now it is killing their ability to
lead. If you know your strengths, then you can focus yourself on them and allow
yourself to be successful through them. If you are aware of your weaknesses you will
be able to stay away from them, or hire to cover them, and thus allow yourself to
become even more successful as a leader. So prep yourself by becoming exceedingly
clear on your strengths and weaknesses.
3. Settle in for the marathon, not the sprint. Very few – I mean VERY few – people
get big leadership assignments at early ages. And when they do, even fewer of the
few see things happen fast in their leadership. No, usually things happen slowly.
Why do we think they will happen fast then? Because those are the only stories we
hear on TV and read about in magazines. “Twenty-five year old starts business that
grows to $20 million a year in sales in JUST TWO YEARS,” Sells a lot better than
“Forty-five year old works hard for twenty years and builds lasting business that
makes a difference in her community.” Right? Right. So, unless you are one of the
chosen few, you will need to prep for a marathon, not a sprint. This is both a mental
and emotional adjustment that needs to be made. Prep for the long haul!
4. Develop a learning attitude. You have perhaps heard it said, “Leaders are
readers.” It is true. Even more so, leaders are learners. I don’t know any leader
who has attained any level of leadership who doesn’t keep him or herself on the edge
of learning. One of my mentors runs a company that you would all know by name –
in fact, you probably used one of their products today, no matter where you live in
the world – that does billions of dollars a year in revenue (Yes, with a “b”) and he
still takes time each year to go to a school of leadership! He is already a
tremendously successful leader yet he is still working on it! THAT is a learning
attitude! If you want to lead, prep yourself for it by developing a learning attitude.
5. Acquire a love for people. In reality, we do not lead organizations or businesses.
No, we lead people. We are successful if we know how to lead people. People are the
name of the game. And the best way to become a leader of people is to love people.
Others can tell instinctually whether or not we love them and have their best
interests at heart. If they do not know that we care for them they will not follow.
Leadership is the art of directing people who we care for and desire to help. In other
words, we love people. If you have an issue with people, chances are you are not
ready to lead them. To prep yourself for leadership, acquire a love for people. If the
other things are in place, then they will want to follow you.
When people make a decision (either consciously or unconsciously) to follow
your leadership, they do it primarily because of one of two things: Your Character
or your Skills. They want to know if you are the kind of person they want to follow
and if you have the skills to take them further. Yes, there are other variables but
these are the bulk of the matter. This week we focus on the kind of character that
causes people to follow your leadership.
1. Integrity. Integrity is that you do what you say you will. You are trust worthy.
People can rely on you. You keep your promises. The one thing that will most keep
people from following you is if they can’t know for sure if you will actually take
them where you say you will. Are you known as a person of integrity? If so, you will
become an Extraordinary Leader!
2. Optimistic. People don’t want to follow others who think the future is bad! They
want to follow those who can see the future and let them know that there is a better
place and that they can get them there! Do you see the cup as half empty? Then you
are a pessimist. Do you see it as half full? Then you are an optimist. Do you see it as
totally full – half air and half water? Then you are a Super Optimist! Are you
known as an optimist? If so, you will become an Extraordinary Leader!
3. Embraces Change. Leaders are the ones who will see the need for change and
willingly embrace it. Followers will at first desire to stay where they are. Leaders
need to see the benefits of change and communicate them to followers. If you don’t
change, you won’t grow! Are you known as a person who embraces change? If so,
you will become an Extraordinary Leader!
4. Risk Taker. Whenever we try something new, we are taking a risk. That is part of
growing though and it is imperative. Most people are risk averse. Not the leader!
They calculate the risk and what is to be gained from taking the risk. Then they
communicate that to the followers and away they go to a better tomorrow! Are you
known as a person who is willing to take risks? If so, you will become an
5. Tenacious. The tendency of the follower is to quit when the going gets tough. Two
or three tries and their motto becomes “If at first you don’t succeed, give up and try
something else.” Not the leader! They know what good lies beyond this brick wall
and they will go and get it. Then they will bring others with them! Are you known as
a person who is tenacious? If so, you will become an Extraordinary Leader!
6. Catalytic. A leader is ultimately one who gets people going. They are able to move
others out of their comfort zone and on toward the goal! They can raise the passion,
enthusiasm and the ACTION of those who would follow. Are you known as a
catalyst? If so, you will become an Extraordinary Leader!
7. Dedicated/ Committed. Followers want people who are more devoted and
committed then themselves. At the first sign of lack of commitment, followers
scatter for the doors. If the leader sees the end and is bailing out, they better get out
first. Followers follow those who will stick it out because they see the importance of
the task and the goal. Are you known as a person who is committed and devoted to
the goal? If so, you will become an Extraordinary Leader!
When people make a decision (either consciously or unconsciously) to follow your
leadership, they do it primarily because of one of two things: Your Character or
your Skills. They want to know if you are the kind of person they want to follow and
if you have the skills to take them further. Yes, there are other variables but these
are the bulk of the matter. This week we focus on the kind of skills that cause people
to follow your leadership, specifically things that an Extraordinary Leader doesn’t
1. Not Riding Momentum – To increase your leadership effectiveness, you want to
learn to ride the momentum of the situation (the positive momentum of course!).
When we begin to experience bad momentum we naturally try to stop it and that is
good, but many people also have the tendency to try to stop the positive momentum
as well. This comes from our basic desire to have things “under control.”
Unfortunately, often when we try to control the situation, we actually stop the good
that is happening. So let go of the reigns and ride the momentum!
2. Flaunting the Privilege of Leadership – Leadership has its privileges, that is for
sure. And rightly so! The entrepreneur who started the company ought to be paid
well and reap the rewards for the risks that he or she took. Unfortunately, human
nature is still such that people can resent the success and privileges of others, even if
they worked hard for them. Therefore, an extraordinary leader will not be guilty of
flaunting the privileges they have because this is likely to cause a backlash and can
actually harm their ability to lead. Whenever possible share the privileges and
rewards of leadership and your followers will love you all the more!
3. Picking People Who Won’t Threaten Them – An Extraordinary Leader will
always try to pick people who are better than them! Again, human nature is such
that we think, “Wait, if I hire her, she’ll have me out of a job in no time.” Then we
pick someone of lesser quality, while our competitor hires the good one and surges
ahead. No, pick the best! If they are better than you, you will grow together as a
team and you will still be the leader and people will respect you for your ability to
pick – and lead – a winning team!
4. Not Having a Second in Command Who Complements Them – An ordinary
leader picks someone who is like them so they can feel comfortable. An
Extraordinary Leader picks someone who can do all the things that he or she can’t;
someone who can see things in ways that he or she can’t. An Extraordinary Leader
needs a right hand person who can compliment their skills and style. This way the
old adage is proved true – two heads are better than one!
5. Not Giving Power Away – An ordinary leader wants to do as much as they can so
they can be seen as a good, hard worker. They think that they lead by example in
this. An Extraordinary Leader knows that they need to empower others to do the
work and make the decisions if the organization is to grow and they are together
going to make a difference. We must let others take leadership themselves, even if it
means they fail at first. This way we multiply the organizational leadership and we
go even further!
6. Unable or Unwilling to Make Hard Decisions – Leadership is a lot of decision
making. Non-leaders don’t like to make decisions because they operate from a
subjective viewpoint. They aren’t thinking about the overall health of the
organization, they are thinking about who will get mad or who might lose their jobs.
While we want to be sensitive to these things, the Extraordinary Leader
understands that sometimes hard decisions have to be made for the sake of the
organization – and they make them. Then they carry them out. John Maxwell says
that decisions are like crying babies: both should be carried out quickly!
7. Trying to Have No Casualties – This may be the greatest leadership lesson I have
ever learned. The Extraordinary Leader knows that anytime the organization will
make ground, there will be casualties. In the movie Gladiator, the lieutenant comes
to tell Maximus that the troops are not fully ready for battle. Maximus sees that the
other side is about to move and if they don’t move first, they will lose the war. The
Lieutenant begins to say, “The casualties will be too great,” but Maximus finishes
the lieutenant’s sentence so that instead he said, “The casualties will be
‘acceptable.’” I realize now that when my organization moved ahead tremendously
a few years ago, the people who got in a huff about it were the casualties and that
any time a group moves ahead, that will happen. We shouldn’t look for or enjoy
casualties, but understand they will assuredly come, and accept them. So move
Those who become Extraordinary Leaders are those who master the skills of
leadership. Followers will follow leaders based on two primary aspects: The
Leader’s character and his or her skills. Here are the top skills an Extraordinary
Leader must master. Get on top of these and you will find your influence growing
1. Good Communicator. Extraordinary Leaders are those who can take the vision
they have and communicate it in ways that their followers can easily understand,
internal, and own. Then, and only then, can they carry it out! So focus on speaking
and writing more clearly, and with the passion that you have for the vision you
have. Use different ways of communicating, including different ways verbally and
non-verbally. Above all, communicate often!
2. “Sees” the End Result Long Before Others. I think the greatest compliment on
my leadership skills I ever received came from a gentleman who told me that “you
see things about 6 months before the rest of us.” Without tooting my own horn
(okay, a little bit maybe…), that is a skill of a leader. They are always looking out
ahead of themselves and their situations. Followers are worried about what happens
today, while leaders are thinking about and strategizing about what they see for
tomorrow. Be constantly looking ahead. Practice making projections. Get good at
“seeing” the future. When you can do this better than others, they will look to you
3. Ability to Define Goals for Self and Others. Do you know what your goals are?
Can you define them? Can you articulate them clearly (see number one)? Can you
do this for those who follow? Can you define and set their goals? An Extraordinary
Leader works at clarity and definition of goals so that they can be internalized and
acted upon by others. Work hard at this skill and others will follow!
4. Ability to Set Strategy and Course of Action. What will you do to reach the goal?
Many people can say where we should go, but it is the Extraordinary Leader who
can lay out a plan for everyone to get there! Work at laying out a plan for you and
your followers. Remember that there are people with different skill and passion
levels, and take this into account! Get good at this and when people want to get to
their goals in a hurry, they will call on you to lead!
5. Ability to Teach Others. One of the greatest leadership development companies in
the world has been General Electric. This is because their CEO, Jack Welch, has
always emphasized the need for current leaders to teach others. He himself spends
what others would consider an extraordinary amount of time in the classroom
teaching. But remember, he is an Extraordinary Leader and he is developing
Extraordinary Leaders to follow behind him. Work hard at your teaching
techniques, and be sure to use as many situations as possible for the opportunity to
teach those who would follow.
6. Ability to Inspire Others. You may have a great goal, but if you want to be an
Extraordinary Leader, then you will have to put a little oomph under your
followers! This is the ability to inspire! Work at helping them to see the big picture,
the great end results, and how good it is going to be for them and others. Above all,
make it exciting. If it is a good goal, it should be exciting. If it isn’t exciting, then
dump it and get a goal that others can get excited about!
7. Delegates. An Extraordinary Leader is rarely a person who is doing everything
him or herself. Extraordinary Leaders get their job done through others. They
figure out the way, communicate the way, and inspire the followers to go that way,
and then they get OUT OF THE WAY! Delegate to your people. Empower them!
Set them free to soar! This is what an Extraordinary Leader does. Leaders who do it
any other way are just extraordinarily tired at the end of the day with very little to
show for it!
Extraordinary Leaders are those who understand that in order for the organization
to grow and make the maximum impact that it can, the leadership base in the
organization must grow first and grow strong enough to hold the growth. If this
does not happen, the organization will either not grow or will grow and then
crumble because there is no solid foundation of leadership. The effort to multiply
leadership must be ongoing and purposeful. Here are some ways to get your
leadership base growing strong and wide!
1. Get Current Titled Leaders Growing in the Right Direction. If you want to
increase the level and effectiveness of your leadership right now, then the first thing
you should do is start with those who already have a title of leadership. You will find
that many of the people you have as “leaders” really aren’t leaders at all so you have
your work cut out for you! Sit down with your leadership team and let them know
that you are going to be pushing them to grow in the area of leadership. It is
imperative that the titled leaders get on board. If they don’t or won’t, then they
have to go. No effective organization can continue with dead weight in leadership
2. Establish a Plan of Action for Leadership Development. Once you have decided to
move forward with leadership development, you need a plan. I would suggest a oneyear
plan of reading and activities. I am currently taking a group of 17 people
through a 12-month (one meeting per month) plan of leadership development. Each
person has to read the required book for the month. Each person takes
responsibility in a given area. Each person will give a verbal presentation to the rest
of the group on an aspect of leadership. They are accountable to another person in
the group for their development. This is the plan of action. If you need help setting
this up, feel free to contact me and I can help.
3. Identify Untitled Leaders. You also want to identify the leaders you have who
may not necessarily have a title of leadership. Know this though, they are leading!
They are influencing the direction of your company or organization. They are
leading and influencing others. Find out who they are and invite them into the
official leadership process. How do you find these? Here are a few ways: Notice at
your meetings who the other people look to for their opinion. That is the leader. Ask
people who they think has leadership potential. A few names will come up over and
over. They are your leaders. Ask people to tell you who has the most influence
outside of the titled leaders. Again, a few names will come up over and over. They
are your leaders. Now, get them on board with you!
4. Develop a Culture of Leadership. Call your leadership development group
something like “Emerging Leaders.” Get t-shirts made up. Have special events for
them. Get them involved. Honor their commitment and growth. Above all, let it be
known throughout the organization that you value leadership development and you
are willing to invest in people that way. Not only will you invest in them, but you will
honor them and make it fun too!
5. Enable Leadership Attempts: Let them Try, Let Them Fail. This is where most
groups fail. They will let people try, but they won’t let them fail. Once they fail, they
take responsibility away from them again. Leadership development must be a longterm
commitment and this means you will have to put up with some short-term
failures. As you do, the leaders you are investing in will be growing and learning
how to do it right in the long run. Those are the people who will grow your
organization for years.
6. Establish Mentoring: Watch Me Do, Do with Me, Do Alone, Teach Another. Get
the current leaders to teach the newer leaders. Have them take people along to do
their everyday activities. Invest time in them, developing the relationship while they
see how it is done. Then let them do some of the work themselves while you are
there. As that gets better, then it is time to let them do it by themselves. Tell them
you can’t make it that day but they can go make the meeting without you. Once they
have mastered the task, have them turn around and mentor others. This way you
are developing more and more layers of competent, Extraordinary Leaders!
7. Show the Benefits: Both Individual and Corporate. The fact is that people will do
those things tat will bring them benefits and rewards so go all out to show them
what they will get from it as individuals and as a group. Show them that leadership
development will help them make more money, have better relationships with coworkers
and have better job satisfaction. Show them that leadership development
will show itself in all areas of their lives, not just at work. Show them how the whole
organization will grow, become more efficient, accomplish the goals they have
established and really make a difference in the world around them. Show them the
benefits and you will get their hearts for leadership!
Tough and challenging times will surely come. That is a given. The question is what
kind of leadership we will demonstrate during those time. Those who are weak
leaders will see lasting damage done, if not see the organization fall apart
completely. With Extraordinary Leaders at the helm, however, an organization can
actually become stronger and thrive in spite of the tough and challenging times.
That should be our goal so here are some idea on how to be an Extraordinary
Leader in tough and challenging times!
1. Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture. When things get tough, everybody’s
temptation is to become acutely focused on the problem. The Extraordinary Leader,
however, will keep his or her eye on the big picture. This doesn’t mean that we don’t
address the problem. In fact, we have to address the problem. But what separates a
leader from a follower is that the leader doesn’t get caught up in the problem. The
leader sees the big picture and keeps moving toward the vision. The further they
take their followers toward the vision, the further away from the problem they get.
2. Don’t Get Caught in the War or the Friendly Fire. When it gets tough even the
most loyal team members can be tempted to start shooting and, unfortunately, they
sometimes shoot each other! Rather than focusing on the enemy on the outside, they
begin to question each other and find many faults with one another that they
normally would not have seen. The Extraordinary Leader is the one who can keep
from being drug into the fray. They keep their eye on the big picture and act
rationally and objectively. They understand that people are heated and are saying
things they don’t really mean. The people are firing because they are angry or
scared. The Extraordinary Leader understands this and rises above it. This way,
they take fewer arrows and they set the example for their followers.
3. Be First to Sacrifice. When it gets tough, like when there has to be cuts in salaries
etc, the leader should do just that – lead. They need to not only be the one who is
rewarded the greatest when all is well, but they need to be the first to sacrifice. The
Extraordinary leader says, “I know many of you are concerned with the salary cuts.
I am too. In the long run we will be healthy again but for the mean time, this is
necessary. Understanding this, I want you to know that I am taking a 20% pay
reduction myself. I want you to know that we are in this together.” The
Extraordinary Leader is the first to sacrifice and will be rewarded with the loyalty
of his or her followers.
4. Remain Calm. Panic is one of the basest of human emotions and no one is
immune to it. The Extraordinary Leader, however, takes time out regularly to think
the issues through so they can remain calm. They remind themselves that all is not
lost and there will be another day. They remind themselves that being calm will
enable them to make the best decisions – for themselves and for their followers.
Panic only leads to disaster, while calm leads to victory.
5. Motivate. In tough and challenging times, people are naturally down. They tend
to be pessimistic. They can’t see how it is all going to work out. Thus, they have a
hard time getting going. The Extraordinary Leader knows this and will focus in on
being the optimistic motivator. He or she will come to the office knowing that for the
time being, the mood of the group will be carried and buoyed by them and their
attitude. Above all else, they seek to show how the end result will be good – and with
this they motivate their followers to continue on, braving the current storms, and on
to their shared destiny.
6. Create Small Wins. One of the ways to motivate is to create small wins. The
Extraordinary Leader knows that in tough times his or her people think that all is
lost. They wonder if they can win. So the Extraordinary Leader creates
opportunities for the team to win, even if they are small. They set smaller, more
achievable goals and remind and reward the team members when they hit those
goals. With each small win, the leader is building the esteem and attitude of his
followers, digging them out of their self-created hole of fear.
7. Keep a Sense of Humor. Look, hardly anything in life can’t be laughed at. The
Extraordinary Leader knows that even if the whole company goes down the drain,
we still go home to our families and live a life of love with them. The Extraordinary
Leader keeps perspective and knows that we humans act irrationally when we get
scared and fail, and sometimes that is humorous. Don’t ever laugh at someone’s
expense in this situation, because that will be perceived at cold and heartless,
regardless of what you meant by it, but do keep the ability to laugh at yourself and
the situations that present themselves. By doing this you will keep yourself and your
team in an attitude that will eventually beat the tough times.
One thing I know to be true but many people do not believe is that people do want
to be motivated. Sometimes people will say, “But they just won’t follow.” Not true.
You just haven’t motivated them to follow you! Get certain things right and they
will follow! With that in mind, here are some keys to getting people to follow your
1. Inspire and Challenge Them. People want to be inspired. They want to be
encouraged to think bigger and better things. They want to look for and climb big
mountains. They want to have someone help them dream their biggest dreams.
That’s inspiration! They also want someone to set the high bar for them. They want
someone to tell them that they can and should aim higher and go for more. That’s
challenge! Show them the lofty heights, because not many others are. And the one
who does is the one who will lead them.
2. Teach Them. One of the greatest leadership development programs in the world
is at General Electric. Jack Welch has personally devoted himself to its growth. And
he has spent thousands and thousands of hours there himself, teaching in a
classroom setting. He knows that information must be communicated. Take the time
and be patient. Teach those who follow you how to go. Don’t be condescending
because in the process, you will probably learn something yourself!
3. Empathize With Them. OK, it’s almost cliché by now, but the saying, “I feel your
pain” worked! Why? Because people want their leaders to feel their pain. They want
them to know what it feels like when it is hard or when it is work. This doesn’t mean
every board meeting has to be a touchy-feely sob-fest, but we ought to do more than
tell our followers to “Suck it up soldier!” This day and age, that doesn’t fly. They
want to know that you understand what they are going through and that you care.
Sit down with them. Ask questions about the situation. And follow up with them.
4. Strategize With Them. Some, but very few people want to be told what to do and
then left alone. Most would like some direction and help in the area of strategy.
Take the time to plot out the plan of action. Even if you know it, it is best to not just
hand it over and say, “Now do it.” Take them step-by-step so they learn how to do it
themselves. Remember, we aren’t just trying to get the job done; we are trying to
get the job done and create new leaders under us. This is an investment!
5. Dream With Them. Take an interest in what it is that they want to accomplish in
their life. Give them opportunity to dream about what your organization or business
can become. Let them, encourage them, to dream big dreams, and then do all you
can to share that dream, foster that dream, and make that dream a reality! Let
them know that you are committed to them achieving their dreams and they will
follow you to the ends of the earth!
6. Encourage Them to Shoot for the Stars. This is closely aligned with having them
dream, but this has more to do with the size of their dream! Most people will
underestimate what they can do or what they want to accomplish. Most people have
much more potential than they realize, let alone live up to. Help them by
encouraging them to stretch their dreams so they are even bigger and greater than
their first plan.
7. Communicate Honestly and Clearly With Them. People who follow want their
leaders to be honest with them. They act of following is based on believing that you
are being told the truth about where you are going! Be open about the positives and
the negatives. People can take it and if you make them integral to the solutions, then
even tough problems become a chance for teamwork! Communicate in many ways:
written, verbal etc. Just do it regularly so they know what the plan is, where you are
going, what time departure is and the estimated time of arrival at destination SUCCESS!