Your Life in Leadership


Life is too short to be little. – Benjamin Disraeli

As defined by John Maxwell, leadership is influence. With the influence you have as a leader, you can add value to the lives of others by your leadership style. The alternative is often characterized by missed opportunities. How you see yourself determines the direction you travel.

Italo Magni said, “If you’re talking with your head, you’re going to speak to their heads. If you talk with your life, you’re going to reach their lives.” So, here is the question: On which level do you want to lead? Discover these simple secrets and understand the most effective way to lead.

When you lead with your head you can help.

You can draw a person in with your knowledge, but if you want to make a difference there has to be more.

When you lead with your heart you can make a difference.

Until you connect with the heart you will never get to the life-changing encounters that come from leading with your life.

When you lead with your life you can change the world.

Leading with your life is the most powerful form of leadership. This level of leadership embodies all that you know and all of your passions and unites them into a life committed to adding value to others.

When you lead with your life, your influence has no limits. What will be the measure of your leadership?


  • This post is an excerpt from the book, Great Leaders Wanted, which can be purchased by visiting the “Order Doug’s Books” page when you click on the tab above.
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The Power of a Thankful Leader


If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s about to get. – Frank A. Clark

A story is told of two men who were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence.  The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.

Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!”

John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”

“But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.”

“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'”

With all of the pressures and demands that are placed on leaders today it’s as important as ever to stop and give thanks. In this season as we prepare to do just that, let’s examine why it’s important to you as a leader to give thanks.

It puts the past in perspective

Every leader has a story to tell regarding his or her journey. You’ve had up’s and down’s, struggles, and sacrifices along the way. There were times you probably thought about throwing in the towel. But here you are. No, you haven’t “arrived” yet, but you are in a good place and in comparison to where you were, you are very blessed.

It’s important to remember the past but not to live there. The perspective you gain is in knowing that every trial and experience along the way has prepared you for this moment and for a bright future ahead. Be thankful for your past and where you have come from, but keep looking forward.

It gives the present a purpose

When you develop a thankful heart as a leader it helps give purpose to your present. If you are holding on to a hurt, or bitterness from your past, you won’t be effective as a leader today. Let it go. You are right where you are for a reason. Your past experiences, good and bad, have prepared you for this time and place in your leadership journey. You may not be where you want to be, but then again, you are not where you once were either.

It’s as you understand your purpose and put it into context you can excel in your leadership skills. As you carry within you a thankful heart and serve with humility you can set the course for a bright future.

It gives a hope for the future

When you learn the secret of a thankful heart it frees you as a leader. When you learn to count your blessings instead of your troubles, it will help you look at your troubles with a different attitude. You are not defined by your past and you are not the sum of your fears or your mistakes. You have a solid grip on the present. You have hope.

Your future is wide open and is predicated on being thankful for all the blessings you now enjoy. As you ponder these and other blessings during this time of the year, do so with a renew commitment to not neglect this important area of your leadership. What are you thankful for?

© 2014 Doug Dickerson





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Four Things to Know…About Being a Team Player


Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships. – Michael Jordan

How well you work together as a team matters. The consequences are real. The success you strive for are too important to leave it to those who are not team players and insist on having their own way.

What team characteristics do you think are needed for success? How do you turn personal leadership qualities into successful teamwork strategies? Let’s examine a few possibilities.

  1. A team player has the right temperament.

A team player has a pleasant combination of what the dictionary defines as, “the combination of mental, physical and emotional traits of a person or disposition.” In other words, team members blend well with each other. The team member thinks in terms of what is best for the whole team, not just his or her own needs or wants.

  1. A team player sets the right example.

A team player models behavior that inspires others to be their best. As Mark Twain once said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” A strong team player inspires others by a good example of selfless behavior.

  1. A team player has the right attitude.

The attitude of the leader at the top of the organization sets the tone for everyone else in it. John Maxwell said, “A leader’s attitude is caught by his or her followers more quickly than his or her actions.” A team player contributes to the team with a good attitude.

  1. A team player has the right motivation.

A strong team player is motivated to perform at his or her very best. A team player is always thinking of ways to improve and move the team toward success, which requires a willingness to set aside personal agendas for the sake of the team.

When you are developing these four attributes in yourself and building them among your team you are well on your way to building an environment where teamwork can thrive and success can be achieved.

  • This was adapted from my book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essential for Everyday Leaders. Visit the “Order Doug’s Books” page for more information and to place your order.
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What Will Your People Say When You Move On?


After a real leader has moved on, the people who worked for him or her will always say, “I learned more and did more than I ever thought I could. – Alan M. Webber

A story is told that when Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius there were many persons buried in the ruins who were afterwards found in very different positions.

There were some found in deep vaults, as if they had gone there for security. There were some found in lofty chambers. But where did they find the Roman sentinel?

They found him standing at the city gate where he had been placed by the captain, with his hands still grasping the weapon. There, while the earth shook beneath him, there, while the floods of ashes and cinders overwhelmed him, he had stood at his post, and there, after a thousand years, he was found.

The legacy of that soldier standing guard is a testament to his loyalty and sense of duty. In the face of death he did not abandon his post and was a true soldier to the end.

There comes a time when every leader moves on. It may be after many years of faithful and dedicated service to an organization, or it may be after just a short period of time. But the question under consideration is what will be said about you by those who remain. Just like the soldier standing guard at Pompeii, you too will leave a legacy. What do you think the conversation will sound like after you walk out the door? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that this is what they were saying?

“He taught me how to serve”

How nice it would be to know that the people you leave behind will reflect on this attribute of your leadership. Real leaders get this principle and drive home the importance of it routinely – it’s not about you. Your title or position does not make you a leader. It is however, a responsibility given and an opportunity to seize in being a part of something larger than yourself. It’s a leadership principle you have lived by and one that others got to see up close and personal. It stuck. Now you are gone- but not forgotten. A few former colleagues gather around after you are gone and the conversation starts off like this: “Remember the first time he came to us and told us that we were adopting a family during the holidays and…”

“She led with integrity”

At the end of the day your integrity is the most important thing you carry with you out the door. Are the accolades nice? Yes. But you built your legacy as a leader on the premise of integrity. You can walk out the door with your head held high and with no regrets. It was when you modeled integrity on a daily basis that your people knew that they could follow and trust you. When you easily could have cut corners on quality and turned a larger profit, you made the right choice. Whether times were good or times were bad, you always dealt openly, honestly, and fairly with your people. Guess what? They were paying attention. You built your integrity not on promises given but on promises kept. Your word was good. You delivered. And your people will always remember you for it.

“He inspired me to be my best”

There may have been times along the way when your people were mistaken about your high expectations and the way in which you pushed them to become better. They may have considered you to be unreasonable or too tough at the time. But you inspired them to be their best and to reach their full potential because you saw something in them that they didn’t see in themselves – like a diamond in the rough. But you didn’t let up and they rose to the occasion. At some point they bought in to your inspiration and they are the better for it. Wouldn’t you like to hear that conversation? Now, your legacy will live on through them.

“She left too soon”

How fitting it would be to know that when you left it was considered too soon by those who served with you. There’s no shortage of stories with bad endings when the leader leaves and there is a sigh of relief- but not so with you. Why? It’s because you were a real leader who walked among your people, built relationships, served with humility, led by example, insisted on excellence, and gave it your all.

When you leave it can be a cause for celebration or it can be a time of passing the torch to the leaders you have raised up. What your people will say about you is being decided by how you lead them today. What will they say when you leave?


© 2014 Doug Dickerson


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Three Things to Know…About Jerks at Work


We don’t devote enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks. – Bill Watterson

Whose face comes to mind when you hear the word “jerk”? Not much hesitation there was it? Identifying jerks is not hard – so what do you need to know?

  1. Jerks are everywhere. Your organization does not have a monopoly on the number of jerks it has working in it. Every organization has their fair share of them so don’t think you are unique because you have more than one.
  2. Jerks procreate. Most of the jerks I know have it in their DNA to be that way. Here are a few questions to consider: Do the contributions of the jerk(s) make it more or less feasible to overlook their obnoxious behaviors? At what point do they become more of a liability rather than an asset? Is your organization a jerk magnet, and if so, why?
  3. Jerks will have their day. Whether it’s in the form of bullying or some other type of intolerable workplace behavior –it’s just a matter of time before the jerks meet with enough resistance to change or move on, or be brought down by their own actions. Best advice here? Be patient.

A few final takeaways…

  1. Stay above the fray. Don’t be drawn in by the behaviors of the jerk(s) regardless of their following.
  2. Keep your attitude right. It’s not easy dealing with the jerks and it can be very frustrating especially when you think nothing is being done about it. Regardless, keep your heart right. Don’t let the jerks drag you down!
  3. Set the right example. Let others (and the jerk) know that there is a better way to conduct yourself. When you treat people with dignity and respect and know how to mind your manners you are setting the right tone. Show the better way to lead.
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Three Things to Know…About Servant Leadership


“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max de Pree

Over the years there has been a lot of talk and misconceptions about servant leadership. Here’s my take…

  1. Leaders who serve do not vacate their positions of power or authority they validate it. Servant leaders have those positions not because they are power-hungry, manipulative, or selfish, but because they are not. Make no mistake, servant leaders have power and authority, but they’ve learned the secret of how and when to exercise it.
  2. Leaders who serve are invested in the success of their team. They will empower their people with every tool possible in order to ensure their success. Servant leaders understand that when they help others become successful they are successful.
  3. Leaders who serve are relational. Servant leaders are intentional about building relationships in order to gain the trust and confidence of his or her people. When you take the time to be among your people and get to know them, they will see up close what type of person and leader you are. At the end of the day, your people want a leader they can relate to not one they fear.

A few final takeaways…

  1. Don’t throw your weight around – it’s unbecoming of a leader. Serve them.
  2. Be invested in your people and they will not disappoint you.
  3. Know your people and be vulnerable. People like it when you are real.
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A Tale of Three Leaders


The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. – William Arthur Ward

One of my favorite stories is from John Maxwell. In it he shares about the turkey chatting it up with the bull. “I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.”

“Well,” replied the bull, “why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings? They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch on the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched on top of the tree. But he was promptly spotted by a hunter, who shot him down out of the tree.

The moral of the story: BS might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

Every leader I know wants to make it to the top. I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t want to be successful. Your leadership point of view – how you see your world, will set into motion the realities of your leadership and to a certain extent the success you have. Will your present leadership style get you to the top? Will it keep you there? Here are three style of leadership for your consideration.

The pessimistic leader

This is the leader who always sees the glass half empty. For this leader the next disaster is just around the corner and no one is prepared for it. The pessimistic leader assumes the worst and usually creates self-filling predictions.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around this type of leadership style but it’s one that in some circles exists. The only thing more demoralizing than working for this type of leader is being one. But know this; a pessimistic leader is one by choice. The pessimistic leader is not the only leader to face adversity, setbacks, personnel issues, economic challenges, etc. It comes with the territory. Then what’s the deal breaker? In a word – attitude.

The pessimistic leader’s lid of limitation is his or her attitude. Until this leader drops their pessimistic ways they never make it to the top. Zig Ziglar was right when he said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” Change your attitude and you will change your point of view.

The optimistic leader

The optimistic leader has an easier path to the top. Why? For the opposite reason the pessimistic leader will not reach it. Optimism is the fuel that drives you and it’s contagious. A healthy dose of optimism will give you and your team the competitive advantage you need to climb your way to success.

But is optimism alone enough or is more needed? Just as you need a dream or a goal to shoot for, optimism alone is not sufficient. You must be awakened to your dream and work it. You can dream all day but until you go to work you are just a daydreamer. You need an optimistic frame of mind that causes you to believe that anything is possible-and it is- but you must channel that optimism through hard work and measureable results.

An optimistic leader expects challenges and is prepared for them. But the optimistic leader needs to know how and when to pivot and be prepared to make adjustments. It’s hard to remain optimistic for long if you are going in the wrong direction.

The realistic leader

The realistic leader knows how to discern the BS, adjust the sails, and make the best of every challenge and opportunity. The leader wearing the realistic hat will tell you the truth no matter how sobering it may be. It may sound something like this, “Times are tough. We’re not where we want to be or should be. We’ve been blindsided, and at times we’ve dropped the ball. We’re going to make some changes and if we will pull together and work hard, together we can turn this around.” It’s acknowledging problems and accepting responsibility with optimism still in place.

The realistic leader walks a tightrope. If the tone is too harsh it can have negative consequences. If the message is not delivered forcefully enough the perception can be that problems are being swept under the rug. But optimism devoid of reality sets people up with a false hope. People need to know what’s optimistically within reach.

A realistic leader’s greatest asset in order to be successful is trust. When people trust their leader to not BS them and give it to them straight, and have their backs, the sky is the limit as to how high they can go.

Which type of leader are you?


© 2014 Doug Dickerson


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