Leadership Minute: Set Your Course

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Among the safe courses, the safest of all is to doubt. – Spanish Proverb

Let’s be honest; all successful leaders starting out have their doubts. Whether those doubts about the future and their goals are self-inflicted or placed upon them by someone else, every leader has doubts. You know the doubts I speak of: Am I qualified? What happens if I fail? What will people say or think if I fall short? Well, hang around long enough in leadership and you will no doubt hear those sentiments. The question is not whether you will have doubts but what you will do with them. The key is not to be defined by your doubts or doubters but to set your course and not look back, neither to the left nor to the right, but straight ahead to the goals before you. You must listen to the only voice that matters that comes from deep within you saying this is the way. Set your course, cast aside your doubts, and chase your dreams. You can do this!

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Leadership Minute: Scripting Your ‘Good Ole Day’s’

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The illusion that times that were are better than those that are, has probably prevailed all ages. – Horace Greeley

This is perhaps a widely accepted generational belief that the good ole days of yester-year were somehow better than the present. It’s not hard to look around without having a certain measure of longing for what we perceive was a better time and place. Just bring back the good ole days we cry. But the good ole days of the next generation is what we create today. As a leader this is your day, this is your time, this is your moment to create the days you long and wish for. Time doesn’t stand still for any of us. The good that you hope the next generation will look back on and remember as the ‘good ole days’ is created by what you do today. It’s found in your daily random acts of kindness, the service that you render to others, and it’s a script that only you can write. You are the author of the next generation’s good ole days. How is your script coming along?

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Three Things Talent Can’t Do For You

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. – Albert Einstein

Gary Inrig tells an interesting story about Bertoldo de Giovanni. Giovanni is a name even the most enthusiastic lover of art is unlikely to recognize. He was the pupil of Donatello, the greatest sculptor of his time, and he was the teacher of Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor of all time. Michelangelo was only 14 years old when he came to Bertoldo, but it was already obvious that he was enormously gifted. Bertoldo was wise enough to realize that gifted people are often tempted to coast rather than to grow, and therefore he kept trying to pressure his young prodigy to work seriously at his art.

One day he came into the studio to find Michelangelo toying with a piece of sculpture far beneath his abilities. Bertoldo grabbed a hammer, stomped across the room, and smashed the work into tiny pieces, shouting this unforgettable message, “Michelangelo, talent is cheap; dedication is costly!”

When it comes to the recruitment of the best and brightest in most organizations the safe bet is to always go with the most talented. For example, you don’t see the top law firms competing for the bottom ten graduating students from law school; instead they go after those graduating at the top of their class.

It goes without saying that talent is important. You want and need talented people on your team. But is talent alone enough? I’d like to highlight three things that talent can’t do for you and in doing so hopefully help you to see the broader picture of what matters most.

Talent can’t be a substitute for your character

Whenever you place a higher premium on talent than on character you have made a mistake. A talented individual on your team can be a valuable asset. But if they are strong on talent and weak on character in the end you will both lose. This is a trap many leaders find themselves in. What do you do when the “star” of your office (top sales producer, etc.) is also the office jerk, a bully, cuts corners, or exhibits otherwise questionable behavior?

At the end of the day, you can always find talented people to help you. You can also find people of character. It’s not an either-or proposition. You can have both but you have to esteem one over the other. Which do you think is more important?

Talent can’t be a replacement for your motivation

Talent and potential is one thing while possessing the motivation and desire to achieve is another. A person with lesser talent but with a higher motivation factor can achieve more than an unmotivated person with more talent. Talent is not what gets you up and out the door in the morning. Talent does not give you an advantage; motivation does.

A classic example is Steven Spielberg. Spielberg dropped out of high school and applied to and was rejected by three different film schools because of his “C” average grade. His report card didn’t measure his motivation and passion. But because his motivation joined forces with his talents we’ve all enjoyed some really great movies. The key here is not to become complacent or coast just because you are talented. No one will remember you because you had talents, but they will remember what you did with it.

Talent can’t be a predictor of your success

What talents do you possess? What is your driving passion? What would you attempt to do if you knew that you could not fail? These are pointed but necessary questions you need to answer if you want to be successful. You see, it’s not your talents that define you or guarantee your success – it’s your choices.

In your possession are talents that you have been blessed with. And every day your choices take you one step closer to perfecting those talents and achieving those dreams or your choices hold you back.

Here are some key choices you will have to make: Your attitude; it will make you or break you. Your friends; the true ones will always believe in you and stick with you. Your faith; it will give you strength for your journey and peace in your storms. Your fears; you will be defined by how you overcame them or how they overcame you. Your talents; will you use them or will you lose them. Talent does not guarantee success it is simply part of the formula.

Embracing your talents is a necessary first step going forward. The formula looks like this: T (Talent) + C (Character) + M (Motivation) + C (Choices) = S (Success). What are you doing with your talents?

© 2014 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership Minute: Disturb Your Routine

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The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb its routine. – William H. Danforth

Have you ever been in one of those funks where you just couldn’t seem to find a way out? You know the state of mind I speak of – you’re in a rut where creativity is stagnant, you are not clicking on all cylinders like you are accustomed to, and you feel like you are banging your head against the wall. At some point in time we have all been there. One of the best ways to break out of that sluggish state of mind is to disrupt your routine. Disrupting your routine can be liberating and can help you gain some much needed perspective. When your routine becomes too predictable and robotic it can dull your senses to things going on around you. A little variety in your day can be therapeutic. Adding some variety to some otherwise predictable routines can help stimulate your mind and give you a different point of view. When it comes to a sluggish mind don’t be afraid to cause a disturbance.

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Leadership Minute: Seek to Serve

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We lead best when we seek the welfare of those we lead, when we seek to serve rather than being served. – Alan McGinnis

As a leader you will put many skills into practice. You will learn the ropes of good people skills, time management, vision casting, teamwork, conflict resolution, and much more. But chief among those skills and what will set you apart from your counterparts is a genuine heart for those you lead. When you seek the welfare of those you lead above your own it will be the defining mark of your leadership. When you seek to serve your people they will see up close and personal what real leadership is all about.  This leadership philosophy runs contrary to what many people experience and what too few leaders practice. But think of how different things would be if it were. Your leadership is a privilege and it’s a gift. The joy of leadership is found in that discovery. Seek first to serve and everything else will take care of itself.

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Leadership Minute: Build Bridges

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I have no shortage of strong opinions, but I have tried all my life to be a bridge builder. – Bill Hybels

Bridge building is such an important leadership skill to develop. When leaders can build bridges and connect people with no regard for race, religion, political views, or personality types, it can be a most rewarding endeavor. Unfortunately, preconceived notions about people can prevent authentic relationships from developing and thus bridge building becomes nothing more than a good idea. Most leaders I know, including myself, have strong opinions. But when those strong opinions get in the way of relationships then we become isolated and only gather in flocks with like-minded people. While that is all good and well your circle of friends is smaller, your world view is narrower, and your sphere of influence is marginalized. You don’t have to compromise your opinions in order to befriend a person who thinks otherwise. Be approachable, be respectful, but most of all be authentic. Your opinions and values are what you will carry with you for a lifetime, and regardless of who comes and goes in your life, those beliefs will always guide you. Are you a builder?

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Leadership Minute: Push Forward

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Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team. – Patrick Lencioni

Trust is an essential component of any team dynamic. How trust is communicated is important. Knowing that your fellow team members have your back is reassuring. That they know you have theirs is critical. But sometimes a push is needed to send a message that you not only have their back but you believe in what they can become. Pushing others is not so much about being there to catch them when they fall but to help move them forward. Being pushed stirs us out of our comfort zones and tends to be unsettling at times. But we all need a push now and then. Trust is built through consistency and tested over time by our actions. When your team members trust you then they can see the push for what it is and the good it can accomplish. Trust enough to care, care enough to push.

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