What Five Top Leaders Teach us About Mistakes


A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. – George Bernard Shaw

Fred Rogers shared a story about a young apprentice who applied to a master carpenter for a job. The older man asked him, “Do you know your trade?” “Yes sir!” the young man replied proudly.

“Have you ever made a mistake?” the older man inquired. “No sir!” the young man answered, feeling certain he would get the job. “Then there’s no way I’m going to hire you,” said the master carpenter, “because when you make one, you won’t know how to fix it.”

Mistakes are as much a part of our lives in leadership as any success. This is so because on the journey to success we make many mistakes. It’s all a part of the learning and the journey. I know I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and then some, how about you?

Churchill wisely observed, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” In the end, it’s not that you will make mistakes or have failures, but it’s all about your response and what you learn when you experience them.

From some of the top thinkers in leadership come words of advice and wisdom to help you put your mistakes in perspective. Here are my five favorites.

John Wooden – “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

Wooden’s take on mistakes should encourage all of us. Mistakes are made by “doers” who dare to take risks and accomplish their goals and dreams. Mistakes will not come to the person sitting on the sidelines and who is otherwise disengaged from the race. Setbacks and failures are made by doers like Edison, Ford, Disney, Spielberg, and you. Get in the game, get your hands dirty, and get a few mistakes under your belt. The sooner you do the sooner you will enjoy success.

Steve Jobs – “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”

Steve Jobs characterizes people who make mistakes as “innovators”. Perhaps you’ve never thought of it this way before, but it’s a great perspective. Innovators are those tenacious people who never give up. Regardless of the ridicule, adversity, or circumstances, these innovators will gladly welcome the challenges that come with making mistakes. Your mistakes can either be your fuel and fire, or a bucket of water dashed upon your dreams. When you make mistakes- innovate!

Dale Carnegie – “The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.”

What Carnegie is saying here is that no mistake, setback, or failure is ever in vain if you approach it with the right attitude and learn from it. Essential here is the learning. If you keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again you haven’t learned from it. Profiting from your mistakes is when you figure out why the mistake happened and turning that negative experience into a positive one. Your success as a leader is connected to what you learn and applying the lesson.

Les Brown – “Forgive yourself for your faults and mistakes and move on.”

This is such good advice. We’ve all made our fair share of mistakes. But what good would any of us be as leaders if all we did was beat ourselves up because of our mistakes? Success will come to the leader who, after making a mistake, forgives himself/herself and moves on with a renewed purpose and determination to succeed. Don’t wallow in your mistakes, cut yourself some slack, and get moving.

John Maxwell – “The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.”

This is such a powerful truth that all success-minded leaders should embrace. None of us will achieve any level of success without making mistakes, experiencing setbacks, and feeling the sting of failures. But living in a constant state of fear of making a mistake will only impede you from being in the game and trying. Don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you from being fully engaged and ready to compete, and ready to win.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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How to Embrace a ‘Why Not Me?’ Attitude


You can start from where you are with what you have and go where you want to go. – Carey D. Lohrenz

In her book, Fearless Leadership, (On Amazon at http://amzn.to/1RJSSCS) Carey D. Lohrenz shares her tremendous insights on fearless leadership and the courage to chase your dreams. The Navy’s first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot, Lohrenz knows a thing or two about embracing fears, chasing “impossible” dreams, and having the courage to not give up in the face of overwhelming odds.

In the book she references Dharmesh Shah, the confounder and chief technology officer of Hubspot and his belief that “one of the qualities of truly confident people is their inclination to think, “Why not me?” rather than sit on their hands and wait for an opportunity that never comes.”

A casual study of any successful entrepreneur, inventor, writer, etc. will reveal a common thread of tenacity and a ‘why not me?’ attitude that started it all.

What are your goals and dreams? How long will you wait for that dream to come true before you make a decision to act on it? Here are a few tips on how to embrace a ‘why not me?’ attitude.

Embrace your gifts

Embracing your gifts and talents is the first step on your journey. For Lohrenz it was to be a Navy aviator. While that may not be your goal, you must embrace your gifts and chase your dream if you ever want to achieve it. It’s when you embrace what is unique and special about you that you can live it to the fullest. 

Embrace your fear

One of the chief obstacles you will face with a ‘why not me?’ attitude is fear. Fear will be that voice whispering in your ear that you can’t do it; that you are not talented or skilled enough, that you don’t come from the right pedigree, you are too young or too old, and the list goes on. Embracing your fear is the first step in conquering it. Don’t listen to the voices of anyone else who seeks to hold you back. 

Embrace your struggles

Any dream or goal worth achieving will be met with setbacks and disappointments. It comes with the territory. The ‘why not me?’ attitude understands that it won’t always be smooth sailing and if this is my attitude going forward then ‘it will be me’ facing down my fears and struggles on the way to reaching my goals and dreams.

Embrace your new mindset

Going forward with a ‘why not me?’ attitude will require a new mindset and a self-discipline that you must nurture and develop. It will propel you to a new level of thinking and hard work. Gone will be the days of limited thinking and throwing in the towel when rejected or discouraged. This new attitude is tenacious and courageous in the face of whatever obstacle you face. It also embraces that idea that you are indeed capable and qualified to be the leader you desire to become.

Embrace your possibilities

When you first embrace this ‘why not me?’ attitude you may have had before you some attainable goals or dreams by your own assessment. But when you fully embrace this new attitude you have now taken the lid off of your self-imposed potential. Now a whole new world of possibilities are before you. How? You are removing one of the greatest obstacles – limited thinking. That’s exactly what Carey Lohrenz did when she made up her mind to become a Navy aviator. When you embrace your possibilities and potential the sky is the limit.

Embrace your success

This is the opposite side of the coin from fear. We know how fear works: the fear of failure, the fear of what other people may think or say, etc. But the fear of success can be just as harmful. So instead of embracing our dreams, instead of stepping out and taking a risk, we settle for mediocrity. We settle for what’s comfortable. We forfeit the dream. When you embrace the ‘why not me?’ attitude you also embrace the unlimited world of possibilities and successes that can be yours.

Embracing a ‘why not me?’ attitude is a calculated risk. It’s risking the known for the unknown, the status quo for next level success. It’s embracing a life that could be for a life that is. The choice is yours. I encourage you to embrace the ‘why not me?’ attitude – the world needs leaders like you!


© 2015 Doug Dickerson


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Why Do The Good Ones Leave?


If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more,  you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

How is the organizational culture where you work? How is morale? Depending on the day and when asked, the answers can run the gambit of responses and emotions.

A document was discovered in the ruins of a London office building. It was dated 1852. Here are a few of the notices that were posted for a group of employees: 1) This firm has reduced the hours of work, and clerical staff will only have to be present between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays, 2) Now that the hours of business have been drastically reduced, the partaking of food is allowed between 11:30 and noon, but work will not on any account cease, 3) No talking is allowed during business hours, and 4) The craving for tobacco, wine, or spirits is a human weakness, and as such is forbidden to all members of the clerical staff.

Would you like to reconsider your answer about morale in your organization now?

Here’s what we do know from polling and surveys, like this one from Gallup (http://bit.ly/1uUCjpX) that reports employees are just not as engaged as they once were.

It’s been said that people don’t quit organizations, they quit leaders. It’s a sad but true commentary on the lack of leadership skills that are so desperately needed in the workplace.

There are consequences to poor leadership and where it’s not present, people will leave to find it. Inevitably it’s the good employees who leave. Left behind is a weakened and demoralized team forced to pick up the pieces.

But why do the good ones leave? What is the tipping point in which a good employee will cash in the chips and bolt? The specifics vary, of course, but typically the good ones leave for these reasons.

The good ones leave because of leaders with no backbone

This type of leader plays to the crowd and will say whatever he or she thinks you want to hear. The good ones had rather hear the uncomfortable truth than the pleasant sounds of an appeaser. The good ones want a leader who is not afraid to make the difficult decisions.

The good ones leave because of leaders with no vision

The good ones long for and thrive in an environment where the leader has a vision for the future, can articulate it, and sets a course of action that will take them there. The good ones understand that without a clear vision for the future there is no future to be had by staying.

The good ones leave because of leaders with no skin in the game

It will be hard to command the respect of your people if you have no skin in the game as it relates to your organization and its mission. You can’t expect a buy-in from your people if you are not fully invested yourself. The good ones seek to be with leaders who are as passionately invested as they are.

The good ones leave because of leaders who place limits on their potential

The good ones will thrive in a culture of excellence where their hard work and talents are put to best use. The good ones will not sit idly by while the leader plays politics or favorites and be denied the opportunity to advance professionally.

The good ones leave because of leaders with no accountability

The good ones fundamentally understand that accountability and transparency are the cornerstones of success. When a leader no longer feels the need to be transparent or be accountable for his or her actions, then the good ones will not stay. Trust is like glue for the leader, is there is none, people won’t stick.

The good ones leave because of leaders with no boundaries

Ultimately, the leader is responsible for the culture of the organization. If proper boundaries are not being observed and inappropriate behaviors are being tolerated- such as bullying, then the good ones will not stay in that environment.

The good ones leave because of leaders with no integrity

At the end of the day it all comes down to the integrity of the leader. The good ones want their leader to be a person of integrity and one they can trust. If integrity is lacking in the leader then integrity will be lacking in the culture. The good ones will leave to avoid the connection.

Many personal factors contribute to the reasons why the good ones tend to leave and move on. I’ve discovered that it’s not always for the money or a promotion. The good ones understand the wisdom of the words of John Maxwell who once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That’s why the good ones leave- to be with good leaders.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson




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Random Acts of Leadership


Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and actions. – Harold S. Geneen

In his book, Everyday a Friday, Joel Osteen shares a story about a letter he received in the mail one day during his early days of pastoring. It was during a period of time when he was filled with much self-doubt. The letter was from John Maxwell.

Although at the time they had never met, the letter was filled with words of encouragement and hope. “I watched you on television on Sunday and you were outstanding. I’ve got to tell you, you’ve got what it takes,” Maxwell told him. He also shared suggestions and advice on how to be less nervous and how he prepares for when he speaks.

Regarding the letter, Osteen said, “He had forty years of experience, and he was voluntarily pouring it into a man he’d never even met before. He didn’t have to do that. He’d already won. But John understands this principle: True success is when you reach back and bring somebody along with you.”

That John Maxwell didn’t have to write that letter is a given, that he did write that letter speaks to the power of random acts of leadership.

It’s been said that the soft skills of leadership are the hardest. That may be true. Leaders shoulder a great responsibility and results are important. But it’s as leaders understand that unless you get the soft skills right it will always impede your growth and the productivity of your team.

Striking the right balance in your relational skill set is important. You want and expect your team to be productive without sacrificing the relational skills that create the culture you work and thrive in.

Random acts of leadership follows the principle of random acts of kindness. It’s a leadership philosophy that that revolves around the idea that we are all in this together and when we care for one another we all win.

What does random acts of leadership look like? I submit to you that it’s not complicated. Here are a few ways you can show it.

Give unconditionally

The letter John Maxwell sent to Joel Osteen is a classic example of giving unconditionally. It was unsolicited with no expectation of anything in return. It was just an act of generosity that made a difference. Giving unconditionally is a random act of leadership that says, “I get it. I see your struggle, I’ve been there. I believe in you.” And then you act on it.

Listen attentively

Now and then people just need to vent. They may not need you to be their “answer man” but rather just to listen. For all of its rewards, leadership can be lonely and having a confidant to go to can make a world of difference. Your random act of leadership can simply be taking a friend to lunch and being a sounding board.

Connect intentionally

It is incumbent upon you as a leader to connect with your people. Don’t wait for them to take the first steps – you do it. A good leader initiates.  Whether you have been brought together with your people by choice or by coincidence, take the first steps to building the relationship. Connecting intentionally is a random act of leadership that seeks to know, relate, and broaden the circle of influence for everyone.

Praise generously

Nothing can demoralize your people any quicker than work gone unnoticed or a team member not appreciated for their efforts. Understand this: People are your most appreciable asset and how they are treated matters. Random acts of leadership –showing appreciation for a job well done, will go a long way in building that person up and boosting morale in your organization. Be generous in praising your people.

These are but a few of the random acts of leadership that will make a difference. What would you add to the list?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson





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The 5 C’s of Employee Engagement


Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. – Stephen Covey

Randall Beck and Jim Harter teamed up to write a most revealing article in the Gallup Business Journal (http://bit.ly/1Jz4kv6) that every CEO, executive, manager, and leader should read. The findings, in short, reveal: only 30% of U.S. employees and 13% worldwide, are engaged, over the past 12 years those low numbers have barely budged.

In addition they add, “Knowledge, experience and skills develop our talents into strengths, but unless people possess the right innate talents for our job, no amount of training or experience will lead to exceptional performance.” Do you see the disconnect?

One thing we know for sure – the challenges in the workplace have never been greater. Too often people with “management potential” are elevated into those positions but do not have the necessary leadership skills to be effective. The result? Frustrated mangers who wonder why they can’t get anything done, companies with low morale, high turnover, and no sense of direction or vision.

Beck and Harter continue, “When a company raises employee engagement levels consistently across every business unit, everything gets better.” And herein lies the secret to raising the numbers – raising employee engagement.

Employee engagement is not a management skill; it’s a leadership skill. Employee engagement is a people skill that transcends management or business know-how. Management skill minus leadership skills can be detrimental, but when the two are combined it can be a powerful tool that can create great opportunity.

Key to the findings and to turning the low numbers around was managers who consistently engage their employees. The issues are complex and the solutions vary. That being said, here are my 5 C’s for Employee Engagement that can begin a process of improving employee engagement.

Be Current

A natural function of a manger is to focus on systems and structure. But if that is your only focus then you will always be a manger and likely never a good leader. Being current is not so much about numbers and the bottom line; rather it’s about being relationally up- to- date with your people. Before you can build your company you have to build relationships. John Maxwell was right when he said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Be in the moment with your people and they will be invested in you.

Be Consistent

Your people need to see that you are sincere in your desire to connect with them. If your people are important to you, and they are, then you need to be consistent in the manner in which you interact with them. Being current and consistent is not just paying lip-service to appease a few disgruntled people. It’s a genuine relational investment on your part. That does not mean you have to take them to the lake with you on the weekends, but it does show that you care. Being consistent is just as much for your benefit as it is for your people.

Be Conducive

It’s helpful and encouraging to your people to know that you are attentive to their ideas, concerns, and that you welcome their input. When you build conducive and safe environments for your team to be engaged it builds trust, boosts morale, and elevates their level of commitment to the organization. Foster a culture that promotes engagement and you will see positive changes. Rather than be a manager that relies on controlling your people, you should strive to become a leader that inspires the trust of your people.

Be Challenging

An engaged leader will challenge his or her people to maximize their talents, dare to take risks, and take ownership of their future. A conducive work environment is of no value unless your people are producing. Managers are more concerned about maintaining the status quo while leaders strive for new levels of excellence. This happens when leaders challenge their people to be their best.

Be Clear

Employee engagement rises and falls on good communication.  Consistent and clear communication is the life-blood of your organization.  Your people rely and depend on it. Clear communication is one of the single best ways to build the kind of engagement you need to be successful. Managers can be secretive and keep information close to the vest, but a smart leader shares information and thus builds a community of engagement.

Everything gets better with employee engagement. These simple steps are but a beginning. What would you add to the list? What step(s) would be most helpful to you if implemented today? Employees have been disengaged long enough. It’s time to act.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

Write Doug at: managementmoment@gmail.com


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30 Years Earlier: What I Wish I Knew About Leadership


A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare

One of the benefits of aging (not that I am old) is attaining a certain amount of wisdom that can be garnered from it. Being able to look back over a certain span of time and reflect on where you’ve come and lessons learned can be instrumental in how you look to the future. Sharing those life lessons to a new generation of leaders can be invaluable.

The late George Burns once said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” That’s a great philosophy. But the aging process ultimately takes a toll on all of us.

What are some of the signs that you are getting older? Here are a few I came across that are my favorites: You know you’re getting older when… everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work; the gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals; when you feel like the morning after and you haven’t been anywhere; your children begin to look middle aged; your favorite part of the newspaper is “20 Years Ago Today”; you sit in a rocking chair and can’t get it going; and finally, your knees buckle and your belt won’t.

I’ve been reflecting lately on the things about leadership I wish I knew back in my twenties that I now know. If I had understood them better it would have saved me a lot of grief and heartache along the way. Here are a few things about leadership I wish I had known.

I don’t always have to be right.

I know many in their twenties who think they know it all. I was one of them way too often. With the passing of time I have learned how much I don’t know. What I wish I knew back then was that my formal education was only the beginning. The real educational experience began after graduation –it’s called the real world. I wish I knew in my twenties just how little I knew, and that I didn’t always have to be right.

Building bridges is more practical than burning them

I wish I knew in my twenties the depth and breadth of how important relationships are in leadership. Sadly at times, it was a “my way or the highway” attitude that culminated in sad endings. As I’ve grown older the more I understand and care about building healthy relationships. I’ve grown to appreciate connecting with like-minded people and building more bridges between them and others.

Titles don’t mean a lot

What I thought was important in my twenties was acquiring a title- that somehow that validated my leadership. With that was the idea that my position commanded respect, admiration, and approval. I was wrong. In hindsight after 30 years I understand that a position without respect, trust, and integrity are meaningless. I’d stop chasing titles and positions and focus more on serving others.

Forgiveness is a virtue

Taking up the mantle of leadership is risky business. With all of the joys and rewards associated with it, also come disappointments and frustrations. In my twenties when I was wronged it was hard not to take it personal and not hold a grudge. What I wish I had known back then was that my unforgiveness was not hurting the person who offended me, it was hurting me instead. Life is too short to hold grudges and be mad. Forgive and move on. And remember, you will need to be forgiven at some point.

It’s not about me

The narcissism of my twenties has given way to the “selfie” narcissism we see in today’s culture. Back in my twenties, of course, there were no cell phones, internet, Facebook, etc. But the leadership principle remains. What I wish I knew then that I know now is that the ultimate act of my leadership is not what I do for myself but in what I do for others. My leadership is not meant to be self-serving but rather what I can do to add value to the lives of those around me.

One thing is certain–life in leadership is a continual learning process. Wherever you are on your journey, never stop growing.

What lessons have you learned?

* What would you add to the list? I’d really like to hear from you! Please leave your comments and the lessons you’ve learned!


© 2015 Doug Dickerson



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Three Things Every Leader Needs To Know About Criticism


Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. – Winston Churchill

I came across a story about Grace Coolidge, the wife of President Calvin Coolidge who tried to surprise her husband by having his portrait painted. When it was finished, she hung it in the library of the White House. Later the same morning the President happened to walk into the library accompanied by a senator. They stared at the picture together in silence. Finally Coolidge commented quietly: “I think so, too.”

When you hear the word criticism what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Many take on a defensive posture as it relates to critics. We are quick to defend our words, actions, and decisions.

Often times, however, our growth in leadership does not always come via the praise or accolades of adoring followers. In fact, a lot of it comes during our dark times that are usually quite lonely.

Conventional wisdom says to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. What about critics? Should you keep them at a distance or keep them close? Here are three insights that hopefully will give you some perspective.

Every leader needs a constructive critic

As a leader you will have plenty of critics. Many of them will not be constructive. But when you are committed to your own personal growth and to the success and growth of your people then finding a colleague who can be your constructive critic should not be hard to find.

Your constructive critic is the one who can help you see all sides of an issue, help guide you in your decision making, and cares enough to call you out when needed.

You need constructive critics in your life and you should welcome them in. One constructive critic will be more valuable to you than a room full of “yes people” ever will.

Every leader needs to be accountable

The purpose of a constructive critic is not to make your life miserable but to keep you accountable. A leader should never ascend to the place either in position or in mentality that they are above criticism. We need trusted advisors near us to help us.

I know that many leaders take criticism personal and see those who would dare to criticize as less than loyal, out to cause harm, or advance their own agenda. As a result relationships are strained due to insecurities and people are looked upon with suspicion. It’s a fragmented culture that is hard to reverse.

But when you as a leader set the example for what accountability looks like it can be healthy for the whole organization and it can make a world of difference.

Every leader needs to set the example

John Maxwell said, “Effective leaders know that first you have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand.” This is a profoundly simple rule of leadership. It’s also, I believe, the springboard of constructive criticism.

As a leader you will give more constructive criticism than you will receive and it’s important to do it right. Constructive criticism will be better received and more effective when it’s born out of a good relationship.  If the only time you interact with a person you lead is to be the messenger of how to do something better or to point out something they have done wrong then it will build resentment.

Critics and criticism will be a constant on your leadership journey. Learning the keys to receive it and give it will make you a wiser and more effective leader.

What do you say?


©2015 Doug Dickerson





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