Leadership Toolkit: When the Visionary Leader Meets the Strategic Leader


Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. – Warren Bennis

About 350 years ago, as the story is told, a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build the road westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome hardships to get there. But in a few short years were not able to see five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision.

Visionary leaders (those who see the big picture) and strategic leaders (those who create the plan) are essential for the future growth and development of any organization. But can the two co-exist? It can be a challenging relationship but not an impossible one if you follow these basic rules of engagement.

Embrace your differences

Visionary leaders tend to be your charismatic type leaders who can cast the vision with great enthusiasm and confidence. They have a clear picture in their heart and mind of where they are going and why you should too.

But visionary leaders can at times be hard to work with. In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan M. Webber writes, “Great idea people are rare- and also frequently hard to live with. They see things the rest of us can’t see, which is their gift. They can’t see what you and I see easily, which is their burden. Still, you need them and they need a home where they can contribute.”

Strategic leaders can be a great asset to the visionary leader by breaking down the vision into doable and measurable action steps which creates the vision. The strategic leader is the one who puts the puzzle together.

Leadership key: Your differences are your strengths. Embrace them and work together. You need each other.

Build a bridge

What strategic leaders and visionary leaders need is a way to connect. The divide between ideas and implementation must be joined. There has to be a way as Webber says to “build a bridge the great ideas can walk across from those who have to those who can make them real.”   For the vision to materialize this is a necessity. So what is a leader to do?

The vision needs a strategic plan. It has to be clearly communicated and thoroughly understood before the pieces of the puzzle can be created. From there roles can be assigned and teams put into place, and the execution can begin. The hard part will come later.

Leadership key: Before you build your vision build your relationships. The vision rises and falls on the strength of your communication and relationships.

Give each other space

The role of the visionary leader is not the same as the strategic leader, and vice versa. The relationship is one of isolation and interdependency. Boundaries must be set, observed, and protected while at the same time staying bridged with a unified goal and vision. It’s tricky.

The temptation of the visionary leader is to tinker, mettle, and tweak. Their greatest asset can now become their greatest liability. While they are excellent at creating the vision they can be terrible at designing the plan. As long as they keep interjecting themselves into the details of execution they will stifle the execution.

Strategic leaders thrive on creating the plan and seeing it come into existence. The visionary leader has to learn to give this person the space they need to work. It is a relationship of necessity, one of complexity, but most of all trust. The partnership will only survive if it’s built on mutual trust. The respective leaders have to know how to embrace a shared vision but then give each other the space needed to bring it to pass. When they do it can lead to overwhelming success.

Leadership key: Out of respect give each other space. Out of trust let each other work.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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The Power of Purpose-Driven Leadership


When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment and common purpose, anything is possible. – Howard Schultz

There is a story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other. As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, “Henry, you’re holding the bat wrong. You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.” Aaron didn’t say anything, but when the next pitch came he hit it into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, “I didn’t come up here to read.”

The story is a great reminder of why having and knowing your purpose is important. Do you know your company’s mission or vision statement? If not, sad to say, you are not alone. According to a survey conducted by TINYPulse (http://bit.ly/1puoP3z) of over 300 hundred companies and 40,000 anonymous responses, the survey revealed that only 42 percent of employees know their organization’s vision, mission, and values.

If your employees do not know your company’s vision, mission, or values then they will be poor representatives of your company. If you, as the leader, have not clearly communicated those core values then you have fallen down on the job. How can your employees represent what they do not know? Purpose-drive leadership is essential to your success. Here are three reasons why.

It gives context to your past

In order to understand where you are and where you are going it is important to understand your past. Knowing the back-story of your organization – all the successes and failures and how it emerged in the formative years is foundational information worth understanding.

Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without its roots.” Seek to understand where you have come from in order to make sense of where you are going. From that knowledge you can have a greater understanding and appreciation for where you are today.

It keeps you focused on the present

When your purpose and vision is clear it gives your employees the focus they need to succeed. If your team is in the dark about its mission and vision they are without the most basic of tools needed for success. Your employees cannot lead your organization to its intended destination if they do not understand why they are going there or the values that will guide them.

A clear understanding of your purpose gives them the ability to focus like a laser on accomplishing their goals and objectives. Just as Hank Aaron was able to tune out the distraction at home plate and hit a home run, so too, will your team succeed when they focus on their mission.

It gives you direction for the future

When you can put your past in context and focus on the present then you can build for the future. When you have a purpose that is known, with employees who are engaged, then you have a future that is promising.

“Even though the future seems far away,” said Mattie Stepanek, “it is actually beginning right now.” Purpose-driven leadership is about empowering and equipping your team. Purpose-driven leadership is the rudder of your ship and will keep you on course. Your future is only as promising as your ability to empower. The time is now to lay claim to your purpose, make known your mission and vision, and discover the possibilities before you.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

I’d like to invite you to visit my new podcast page at: http://dougdickerson.buzzsprout.com/

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Charleston Strong Leadership


To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 

Where were you when you first heard the news of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston? It’s the question we ask during such life-changing events. It’s a defining question we ask whereby we put our response into context. It’s how we frame our feelings and try and make sense of the senseless.

On Wednesday, June 17th, 2015, nine of Charleston’s finest God-fearing citizens were gathered in their house of worship. Where they were was by choice. What happened to them was not. Slowly, as the news unfolded before our eyes – the depth, breadth, and severity of the tragedy shocked all of us to the core. How can this be? How can something like this happen here in Charleston?

In the aftermath of the shooting, several things became apparent to those of us who have been blessed to call the Lowcountry home. Living here over the past thirty years I have seen the resilience of the people in trying times before, i.e. Hurricane Hugo. But what happened this past week was different and for different reasons. Here are a few takeaways from my slant as a leadership writer.

Great leaders solicit the best from their people

Albert Einstein said, “Adversity introduces a man to himself.” During these trying days we have not only been introduced to ourselves but we have introduced ourselves to a watching world. And that introduction has caught the attention of the world in a way that has made us all proud. Our leaders stepped up, spoke up, and showed the world what makes us so special.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the leaders of our community such as Mayor Joe Riley, Chief of Police Greg Mullen, Governor Nicki Haley, our clergy and various civic leaders- they called forth the best of the community. Their leadership was calm, tempered, professional, and impressive. They called forth the best from our community and the community responded in a powerful way.

Great people responded with grace

Last Friday I went to Mother Emmanuel AME Church to pray. There I met new friends, Gideon and Ashley who had just moved to Charleston a few months ago from Florida. That they were black and I white, made no difference. We joined hands in the sweltering heat and prayed for our city. It was a way for us to reconcile what we were feeling and do what we felt could make a difference.

The same day across town in a courtroom, family members of one of the victims spoke words of forgiveness and grace to the one who took away what was most precious to them. It was a defining moment in which the curtain into the heart and soul of our community was peeled back and the world got to see what was inside.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subjects and verbs agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Our community has displayed a heart full of grace and love. It’s been on display everyday outside Mother Emmanuel, in the courtroom, in the TD Arena, and in countless other houses of worship since. We came by the thousands in unity to span the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in solidarity and prayer in remembrance of the nine. In our time of tragedy, evil, and grief, great people stepped up and the greater Charleston community demonstrated uncommon grace.

Great opportunities come from great tragedy

The tragedy at Mother Emmanuel AME was not of our choosing, but how we move forward is. Our grieving process takes on many forms from tears, anger, and many unanswered questions. But in the end, it must serve a higher purpose.

If the measure of our response is proportional to the measure of our grief and sorrow, then I have no doubt that out of our great sorrow will come much good.

In closing, let the names of the victims spur us to not be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good: The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

We are Charleston, and we will forever be, Charleston Strong!


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

Email me at: managementmoment@gmail.com

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Six Ways to Rise Above Your Critics


To escape criticism- do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard

A story is told of Winston Churchill and his extraordinary integrity in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill. They say he is getting senile. They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”

Critics. Every leader has them and every leader will. How you respond to critics is an important component of your leadership development. It’s all too easy to get defensive when critics rub us the wrong way or misunderstand us. But can you appreciate a critic when he or she is right? Rising above your critics takes courage. Here are six ways to do it.

Keep a positive attitude.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude,” is a famous Zig Ziglar quote. How high and how far you go as a leader will be determined by your attitude. Nothing will give you a bad attitude any quicker than a wrong reaction to a critic. Basic things you will want to know regarding a critic are the source, the accuracy, the ramifications, and your reaction – if there even needs to be one. Regardless, stay positive and focused on the big picture.

Stay true to your values.

Don’t allow your critics to throw you off of your game. Stay grounded and connected to the values that have guided you to where you are. Values do not change but are guideposts when your circumstances do. The values and principles that brought you to where you are will keep you there so handle your critics with that in mind.

Speak no evil.

Seriously? Yes. Engaging in mud-slinging with your critics only hurts you in the long run. Unless what they have spoken or done is libelous then don’t waste your time in a verbal battle. Be content in knowing that the truth is on your side. There is no greater satisfaction than in knowing that you can look yourself in the mirror and lay your head down at night with a peace that comes from knowing you did the right thing regardless of how others behaved.

Don’t retaliate.

There will be times when you will want (and those close to you) to retaliate against critics. There is something about human nature that wants to fight back and get revenge and settle the score. I get it. But again, the end result will never be good for you. As hard as it may be there are times when you just have to let it go. Don’t worry if you lose a battle today, you are going to win the war if you keep your heart right.

Give them more ammo.

Most of the critics you will encounter are simply those who have some kind of vendetta or jealousy directed toward you. As opposed to stooping down to their level why not give them more ammo? As you do the right thing by continuing to work hard and by exhibiting good leadership, you will only become more successful. Nothing will annoy your critics more than your continued success.

Don’t lose your sense of humor.

One of the most important leadership skills you can develop is a sense of humor. Churchill exhibited it towards the men who spoke ill of him. Bill Cosby said, “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” Your critics will stir up a wide range of emotions and reactions that you will want to run with. But if you laugh – at them, and at yourself, half the battle is won.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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Taming Your Inner Cynic


Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one. – Sam Rayburn

The story is told of a judge who had been frequently ridiculed by a conceited lawyer. When asked by a friend why he didn’t rebuke his assailant, he replied, “In our town lives a widow who has a dog. And whenever the moon shines, it goes outside and barks all night.” Having said that, the magistrate shifted the conversation to another subject. Finally someone asked, “But Judge, what about the dog and the moon?” “Oh,” he replied, “the moon went on shining–that’s all.”

One of the dangers you face as a leader is in developing a cynical attitude. You try your best as a leader to keep a strong positive attitude; after all, you are the one setting the example for others. But we all know that the mental, physical, and emotional toll of being a leader can get to the best among us at times.

Symptoms of cynicism are obvious- if not to you, then to others around you. A cynical leader thinks worse-case scenarios, has an outlook that is more negative, and is too quick to notice the flaws in other people. He tends to second guess peoples motives and is increasingly insecure. This type of behavior can be viewed as “out of character” by those who know you best and are signs that cynicism has taken root.

Taming your inner cynic can be challenging. There are just some days and some people who will take you to your limit. I get it.  So what is a leader to do? Here are five suggestions to help you come back to the bright side.

Choose to be thankful

Instead of being quick to complain about how bad things are why not choose a thankful attitude instead? When you shift your focus to all of the good in your life then your attitude will begin to change. It becomes harder to be negative with a thankful heart.

Choose to be quiet

Cynical people tend to not only be negative but often time very vocal. Instead of saying the first negative thing that comes to mind why not just pause; take a deep breath, and keep that thought to yourself. You never have to apologize for the words you don’t say.

Choose to listen

Cynical people can be that way because they are formulating thoughts, opinions, and attitudes often with incomplete information. A good idea for you as a leader is to listen to your people and gather facts before you speak or make a decision.

Choose to take some down time

There is an old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” that should be taken to heart. I’m convinced that most cynicism in leaders is attributed to this thought.  It is important for all leaders to have quality down time to re-charge and re-connect– to rest and be restored mentally and physically. Leaders need rest.

Choose to make a difference

The attitude at the top of the organization tends to be the one throughout the organization. As a leader you carry that responsibility. The daily choices you make are critical not only for your well-being but for those you lead.

No leader is immune from stress and each battles the temptation to be cynical at times. But know this: cynicism is a choice and is a reflection upon your leadership style. The discipline of a good attitude over being cynical is winnable. The outcome rests in your daily choices.

In closing, let me leave you with some inspiration from the Anyway poem attributed to Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

© 2015 Doug Dickerson



Visit my new podcast page at: http://dougdickerson.buzzsprout.com/




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Aim Close: Bringing the Big Picture Down to Size


If you set goals and go after them with all the determination you can muster, your gifts will take you places that will amaze you. – Les Brown

Imagine what the game of bowling would be like if you couldn’t see the pins you were trying to hit. In 1933, Bill Knox did just that — and bowled a perfect game. In Philadelphia’s Olney Alleys, Bill had a screen placed just above the foul line to obscure his view of the lane. His purpose was to demonstrate the technique of spot bowling, which involves throwing the ball at a selected floor mark on the near end of the lane. Like many bowlers, Bill knew that you can do better if you aim at a mark close to you that’s in line with the pins. He proved his point with a perfect 300 game of 12 strikes in a row.

In leadership circles we hear much talk about seeing the big picture and why it is important. And I agree with most all of it. It is imperative to have a visual of where you are going. Without seeing the big picture your vision as a leader is diminished along with your effectiveness. How can you lead others to an unfamiliar place?

Seeing the big picture and attaining big goals is the desire of every effective leader. But if your focus is always on the big picture – the end result, then the very thing you are aiming for can be lost because of a lack of focus on the small things. What’s the answer? Aim close. Here are four ways you can keep the big picture in perspective while not losing sight of where you are going.

Align your goals

Reaching long-range goals is achieved through a series of short-range steps. The big picture makes sense to you from a pragmatic point of view, but it materializes through a process of short-range goals. As a leader it is up to you to aim close for maximum impact. Uppermost in your mind should be whether the achievement of your goals today will take you closer to the big picture tomorrow. Aligning your goals is akin to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Your goals are those small pieces that eventually come together to make a beautiful picture.

Align your people

The key ingredient to your success is your people. Building a team of like-minded people who see the big picture is critical to your success. Who you align yourself with will make all the difference. Not everyone will take the journey with you. Others will take the journey with you who are not yet on your team. But know this: just as your car needs to be properly aligned to run smooth so does your team. If your team is not aligned in its mission, goals, and purpose, then the big picture will always be elusive.

Align your priorities

It’s always wise to keep the big picture in mind. It’s serves as a constant reminder of what it’s all about for you. But the reality of the big picture is realized when you aim close with your priorities. Just like the bowler in the above story, you don’t have to see all the pins to have a strike. You can get there one frame at a time. The key is to aim close to goals you can reach this month, this week, and today. When your priorities are aligned to the big picture it becomes much easier to lead.

Align your values

Every success-minded person I come across has a high set of standards and expectations. They have learned how to weather setbacks, difficulties, and the voices who those who say it can’t be done. They are relentless in their pursuit of their big picture and have the passion to go after it. When your values are aligned with your big picture then decision making is easier. Today’s decision to lead with integrity places you one step closer to goals tomorrow. Aiming close with your values aligned brings clarity to the big picture. Even if everything else is murky, your values will always guide you in the right direction.

Your big picture should inspire and motivate you on your leadership journey. Aim close for maximum impact. Stay the course and you will get there.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

Visit my new podcast page at: http://dougdickerson.buzzsprout.com/

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Discovering Your ‘One Thing’: Why Passion Matters to You as a Leader

Embracing the challenge of personal leadership is the beginning of expanding your sphere of influence as a leader. Whether you are the CEO of your business or serve elsewhere in the organizational structure, one thing is for sure: the boundaries of your leadership are limitless if you are devoted to developing your personal leadership skills.

In his book, Halftime: Change Your Game Plan from Success to Significance, Bob Buford writes, Most people never discover their one thing.’ But part of what is so unsettling about approaching the end of the first half of our lives is that we know it’s out there somewhere.”

Finding your one thing-your passion as a leader-is life transforming. As Buford says, “It is discovering what’s true about yourself, rather than overlaying someone else’s truth on you or injecting someone else’s goals onto your personality.”

Have you discovered your one thing? Each one of us have unique gifts, talents, and God-given abilities that the world needs.

Here are three simple questions you can answer that will help bring that discovery into focus:

  • What tugs at my heart? – In leadership, what tugs are your heart is likely an area in which you are going to be effective. Your passion as a leader is developed by what moves you at your core.
  • What is my gift? – Often time what tugs at your heart is an area in which you have natural gifts and talents waiting to be used. When you discover what tugs at your heart and blend it with you gift(s) you will excel as a leader.
  • What is my purpose? – Discovering your purpose leads to a life-mission; a course of action that transcends any title or position.

Discovering your passion is essential to your leadership. It is essential to understanding why you are here. Your plan and purpose is larger than you. Find your passion – find your life’s purpose!


*This post is an excerpt from my book: Leaders Without Borders: Nine Essentials for Everyday Leaders – Chapter One: Passion

To purchase the book click on the tab “Order Doug’s books” at the top of the page.

Visit my new podcast page at: http://dougdickerson.buzzsprout.com/



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