Cracked Mirrors: Embracing Your Humanity as a Leader


“Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror crack’d from side to side; ‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried The Lady of Shalott.” (From “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred Lord Tennyson)

We all enjoy reading the stories of the likes of Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, and others who in spite of their setbacks and failures overcame their obstacles. The names and their accomplishments are too numerous to mention in this space. Suffice to say, all such stories are inspiring and serve as a source of encouragement and how that no amount adversity can overtake us if we persevere.

But I’d like to address a more personal issue as it pertains to our leadership. We are familiar with the personal characteristics of leadership that we strive for such as integrity, loyalty, trust, etc. But how do we reconcile our desire to live up to these virtues of leadership while embracing our humanity at the same time?

John Maxwell said, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” And this is the challenge of personal leadership. The question is not whether we will fail, have errors in judgment, offend people, or otherwise not live up to our best as a leader. In short- we’re human. So here are a few tips going forward as you look at that cracked mirror of leadership.

Embrace your humanity

By embracing your humanity you are acknowledging that you are not perfect. As such you are also acknowledging that you are vulnerable and susceptible to shortcomings like anyone else. But this is not meant to be an “out” for bad behavior. As such you should have safeguards in place and surround yourself with trusted confidants to hold you accountable.

Be quick to forgive

Hang around in leadership long enough and you will come to know the value of forgiveness. As a leader you know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of criticism- fair or not. Life is just too short to hold grudges. In as much as you should forgive others their faults, be sure along the way to forgive yourself for the times you have blown it. And don’t be afraid to ask for it. When I understand the depth of forgiveness I need as a leader it’s much easier for me to look upon others through the lens of grace.

Keep the bar set high

That we as leaders may have come up short at times is no reason to lower the bar of excellence. Character still matters and striving to be better should be foremost in our endeavors. Don’t allow past mistakes to knock you off course. Don’t allow past failures to define you. Keep the bar set high and when you fall short don’t be discouraged. Your mistakes will overtake you only when you give up.

Walk humbly

Some might argue that walking humbly as a leader does not fit into the modern definition or understanding of leadership. Walking humbly is not abdicating your authority as a leader or otherwise exerting weakness. If anything, it’s the opposite.

Rick Warren said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Walking humbly is living each day with an awareness of my humanity with the understanding of my dependence upon my faith to form me and my friends to complete me. It’s lived out when I realize the leader I want to be tomorrow is being shaped by my actions today. Do we fall short? Yes. But what we see in the cracked mirror is more bearable when we face the truth.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson


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Leadership Wit and Wisdom from Yogi Berra


When you come to a fork in the road, take it! – Yogi Berra

We recently lost one of baseball’s most beloved icons – Yogi Berra. The former New York Yankee catcher was the consummate ambassador of the game long after his playing days ended.

Known for his quick wit and humor, his quotes have inspired and entertained us for decades. In tribute to Yogi Berra and his many infamous quotes, I’d like to share my ten favorite and how they can inspire the leader in you.


“When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

Decision-making for leaders is very important. And while Robert Frost may have been more poetic in his observation of the road not taken, Yogi’s philosophy was more proactive – take it. There comes a point in time for every leader when every possibility and contingency is taken into account and you have to act. Just do it.

“Slump? I ain’t in no slump…I just ain’t hitting”

Perspective in leadership paramount to your success. Every successful leader has periods of time when he or she just may not be clicking on all cylinders. Everyone experiences setbacks and times when the wind is not at your back. It’s important to remember that slumps will pass and to overcome you have to dig in your heels and press on. It will pass.

“I’d rather be the Yankee catcher than the President”

When you do what you love and love what you do then there is nothing else that will satisfy and no other occupation to be envious of. Discovering your “one thing” and passion is the most rewarding thing you will do. And wherever journey that may take you, there you will find great contentment.

“If people don’t want to come out to the park, nobody’s going to stop them”

One of the hardest and most important things to learn as a leader is that not everyone will take the journey with you – and not everyone should. If people are not willing or capable of embracing your vision and the direction you are going then you can’t stop them from not coming along. And that is okay. Go forward without them.

“You can observe a lot just by watching”

A smart leader pays attention to his or her surroundings. You can learn a lot about your people and your organizational structure just by observing. Perhaps a good rule of thumb would be to talk less, listen more, and keep your eyes open.

“We made too many wrong mistakes”

We all make mistakes. Making too many wrong ones will do you in. Sometimes we can stumble upon success in spite of ourselves. The old adage in sports is that the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. Learning from our mistakes is the key to our success. Avoid making too many of the wrong mistakes and in time you will be fine.

“The future ain’t what it used to be’

Change is the constant of life. As leaders it is imperative to understand change and how to be out in front of it. You will either be prepared for change or a victim of it. But make no mistake – change is inevitable. Smart leaders are early adapters and ahead of the curve. The future ain’t what it used to be so you best be ready for it.

“It ain’t over til it’s over”

Optimism is a key characteristic for every leader. Having a positive attitude will propel you in the good times and sustain you in the bad. You are not exempt from the challenges that come from being a leader but you do choose how you will face them. Regardless of how bad things may look, it ain’t over til it’s over. Don’t give up.

“He’s learning me all his experience”

Every leader needs a good coach or mentor. We don’t start out with all of the real-world experience and wisdom we need. Just as a ball player needs a coach to be successful on the playing field, leaders need coaches who can impart their wisdom and experience. Perhaps you are at the stage where you should be the coach or mentor to someone starting out. The simple truth is this- smart leaders are always learning and gracious enough to share what they know.

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours”

Leaders understand the power of relationships. People are your most appreciable asset as a leader and how you treat people is imperative. Never waste an opportunity to give a complement or practice a random act of kindness. How you treat others is a testament to your leadership and at the end of the day – it’s all about people.

Thank you Yogi Berra for your example and making our world just a little nicer place.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson


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The Four B’s of Effective Communication


The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw

The story is told of Broadway producer Jed Harris who once became convinced he was losing his hearing. He visited a specialist, who pulled out a gold watch and asked “Can you hear this ticking?” “Of course,” Harris replied. The specialist walked to the door and asked the question again. Harris concentrated and said, “Yes, I can hear it clearly.” Then the doctor walked into the next room and repeated the question a third time. A third time Harris said he could hear the ticking. “Mr. Harris,” the doctor concluded, “there is nothing wrong with your hearing. You just don’t listen.”

Good communication is the life-blood of your organization. It is what keeps your team healthy and cohesive. It reinforces a strong corporate culture. But when communication is floundering it can send things within your organization into a downward spiral.

A Business Performance article ( stated that, “Organizations that fail to convey clear strategies and processes and engage employees in shared goals are likely to lose to companies with more effective communication practices.” The article revealed the obvious – that businesses with poor communication have higher employee turnover, increased absenteeism, poor customer service, ineffective change management, etc.

That these negative consequences are taking place in organizations is no surprise. It’s a natural consequence of poor communication. Leaders must be aware that effective communication skills will take you to the next level and poor communication skills will sink you.

Here are four tips that will help you become a more effective communicator as a leader. Take these to heart and put them into practice.

Be intentional

There must be intentionality behind your communication. Your words must convey meaning, purpose, and be delivered with clarity. This goes for written communication as well. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Be concise and as best you can leave no room for misinterpretation. Never assume anything on the part of the people with whom you communicate.

Be consistent

Your communication must be consistent. Don’t damage your credibility as a leader by saying one thing and doing another. Nothing will frustrate your people more and sink morale faster than a leader who isn’t consistent in his or her message.

Be receptive

As a leader you must remember that communication is a two-way street. It’s not always what you say that will make the difference. It’s what you hear that can be a game-changer. Simply put – don’t just be a dispenser of information – listen to your people. Hear what they are saying and create an environment where it is safe for them to talk without any fear of repercussion.

Be accountable

There is an old adage that says “the teacher hasn’t taught until the student has learned.” Apply this to your leadership and it will sound something like this, “The leader hasn’t communicated until his people understand.” This applies to the vision and mission of your organization. Do your people know it? Have they embraced it? Keep in mind – your people are the face of your organization. If they don’t know your mission or vision how well do you think they are representing it?

As a leader you are accountable for communication. It falls upon you to make sure that communication on all levels is taking place. Do you have accountability procedures in place to assess communication effectiveness and desired results?  These things do not happen by accident. You need to have a plan and implement the plan.

You have too much riding on the outcome of good communication. Master these basics and you will soon see the results you desire.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson











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Three Fears That Hinder Success


What I’ve learned in these 11 years is you just got to stay focused and believe in yourself and trust your own ability and judgment. – Mark Cuban

The story is told of a new bank president who met with his predecessor and said, “I would like to know what have been the keys to your success.” The older gentleman looked at him and replied, “Young man, I can sum it up in two words: ‘Good decisions’.” To that the young man responded, “I thank you immensely for that advice, sir, but how does one come to know which are the good decisions?” “One word, young man,” replied the sage. “Experience.” “That’s all well and good,” said the younger, “but how does one get experience?” “Two words,” said the elder. “Bad decisions.”

We hear much talk in leadership circles about success. We read success stories of people and wonder what it would be like to walk in their shoes. In such instances one of two reactions happen. We are either encouraged to work harder and achieve that type of success or we grow despondent believing that it will never happen for us.

What about you? How do you react? In as much as we understand how a fear of failure will naturally hold people back, so too will a fear of success. The results are inevitably the same. Getting a grip on the fears that hold you back is the first step in overcoming them and placing you on the right course to achieve the success you desire. Here are three common fears that will hinder your success.

The fear of commitment

Unless this fear is overcome you will always be stuck where you are. There is no going to the next level of success without a next level commitment to take you there. Be it a successful entrepreneur, CEO, athlete, etc., the one thing they all share in common is an “all-in” commitment to their success.

Basketball great Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” The secret to your success is found in those words.

Jordan’s failures were his fuel. His failures were his motivation. And despite all of his setbacks his level of commitment took him to the top and he is now recognized by many as the best to ever play the game.

One of the greatest hindrances to your success is your fear of commitment. When you overcome this fear you are on your way to experiencing new levels of success.

The fear of resentment

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to celebrate your success. Be it a professional jealousy or some personal resentment there will always be those who will make it their mission to be critical. It comes with the territory. On your journey some will praise your success while others will be critical of it. But, it’s your race- your journey, not theirs- and you will need to learn how to tune out the critics and listen to the voices that matter most.

Elbert Hubbard said, “The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.” The day you fear the resentment that comes with your success is the day you allow everything that is negative to win over everything that is a positive.

You’ve come too far, worked too hard, sacrificed too much to allow the resentment from others to keep you from realizing yours dreams. Don’t allow the fear of resentment to hold you back.  If the people around you can’t celebrate your success then it’s time to move on without them.

The fear of accomplishment

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? After all, becoming successful in achieving your desired goals is cause for celebration-not something to be feared. Yet still, some have a fear of accomplishment out of concern it will change them.

Those fears can easily be addressed when you value integrity more than success, character more than accolades, and your values more than the bottom line.

A fear of accomplishment will only hinder you on your road to success when you see success in a self-serving way. Successful leaders understand that the measure of their success is found in what they can do for others, not in what others can do for them.

You will have many challenges on your road to success. Don’t allow the fear of commitment, resentment, or accomplishment to hold you back. Go forward with confidence knowing that your fears are your fuel and your success is a tool for good.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson






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Choose One Chair – Evolving as a Leader of Destiny


“Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday.”- “Yesterday”, by Paul McCartney and John Lennon

In Guidepost magazine a number of years back Luciano Pavarotti relates a story from when he was a boy and his father introduced him to the wonders of song.  He recounts, “He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’ “‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’ “I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book–whatever we choose–we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”

At some point every leader has that moment of awakening when one chair wins over another. The process of getting there will vary person to person, but that day will ultimately come.

Your growth and development as a leader is a fluid process. Foundational character principles that guide you on your journey will not change, but for the sake of future growth and development as a leader you must be open to change and new ideas.

As leaders we also know that the only constant is change. What worked for you in years past may not be sufficient today. If you are content to just “phone it in” and coast as a leader on how it was done in years gone by then you may like have lost your edge. So what is a leader to do? Here are three basic questions you need to answer. Reaching your destiny as a leader may very well depend on it.

Is yesterday’s passion enough?

Passion is the fuel of your leadership. With it the sky is the limit in terms of your potential and destiny. It’s what keeps you up late at night and gets you up early in the morning. It’s the “why” that gives your life meaning and purpose.

Yet perhaps the wear and tear of the daily grind has taken its toll on you. Perhaps your dreams haven’t been realized and you feel there is no use in going forward. Let me encourage you today to buy-in to the words of Joel Osteen when he said, “If you’re alive and breathing, you can still become everything God has created you to be.” Becoming a leader of destiny requires a new passion going forward. While the passion you started out with may have been sufficient at the time; today’s goals, dreams, and destiny will require more.

Is yesterday’s attitude adequate?

If passion is the fuel of your leadership then your attitude determines your mileage. How far you go is about possessing the right attitude. Your attitude in years gone by may have served you well up to a point, but to get to the next level you may have to step it up a notch.

Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine you altitude.” And that is the secret to achieving your leadership destiny. Leaders who have stood the test of time understand the importance of a positive attitude. Every leader has also dealt with the challenges-both internally and externally, of right thinking. Your attitude will cause you to reach your destiny as a leader or it will prevent it. Be sure it’s a good one.

Is yesterday’s mindset working?

One of the greatest threats to your leadership today is holding on to a “this is the way we’ve always done it” approach of years gone by. Evolving as a leader is not about disrespecting the past but has everything to do with letting it go for the sake of your future.

While values are timeless your methods must be current and relevant to today’s world. Are you still open to new ideas? Do you still have the attitude of a student who is humble enough to learn? Don’t forfeit the destiny that could be yours because of limited thinking. Stay current, be relevant, and keep growing.

When Pavarotti chose his one chair it changed the course of his life. It was that singular decision that put his destiny in motion. In like fashion you must choose your one chair and make sure that you have the right levels of passion, attitude, and mindset to take you to the top.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson


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Five Tensions of Leadership


The fibers of all things have their tension and are strained like the strings of an instrument. – Henry David Thoreau

Avid movie enthusiasts will recall the Steven Spielberg movie “Hook” from the early 1990’s starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts. In this adaptation Peter Pan grows up and plays the role of Peter Banning- a self-absorbed, ladder climbing, workaholic baby boomer.

In some of the early scenes Peter promises his son numerous times that he would come to see him play in his baseball game. Time and again Peter tries to make it to the game but allows business to interrupt the plan and he misses the games. One time Peter even sends one of his office assistants to the ball game in his place. The movie goes on to depict the tension this creates between Peter and his son.

Like the character of Peter Banning; leaders know a thing of two about tensions and how at times relations can be strained. It’s an inevitable part of your leadership. Strings of tension can make beautiful music and can also be the source of great stress.  How you handle tensions will set you apart. Here are five common leadership tensions and ways to handle it.

The tension of accountability

Accountability is essential to good leadership and smart leaders will not shy away from it. An old adage says, “Inspect what you expect,” and effective leaders take this to heart. Properly implemented accountability procedures are not meant to be a drag on creativity or productivity, but rather serve to complement it. The tension occurs when team members resist accountability or when leaders take accountability procedures beyond their stated purpose.  Accountability works best when the objectives are clear and everyone takes ownership.

The tension of communication

Communication is the life-blood of your organization both internally and to those you serve. Getting communication right is essential. Yet when you look at any survey regarding employee engagement one of the top negative issues you will consistently see is poor communication. Tension occurs when leaders make assumptions about communication rather than taking responsibility for knowing it is taking place on all levels. Poor communication creates unnecessary tension that is easily avoidable. You can’t hold people accountable for what you failed to communicate.

The tension of values and vision

If your values and vision are not clear to your people (poor communication) then tensions will inevitably arise. The values and vision of your organization are the blueprints not just of where you are going but it also makes the case for why. If your people do not possess this essential information then tensions will regularly occur between those who “get it” and those who don’t. Within your organization will be people butting heads while never truly understanding why. The tension over values and vision will make you or break you. You must get this right.

The tension of relationships

The aptitude of a leader, while important, is secondary to the manner in which the leader relates to his or her team. Your attitude and disposition will carry you further than aptitude alone. Tensions arise when leaders are brash and abusive rather than competent and friendly. Developing strong people skills will endear you to your people, foster good morale, and will promote camaraderie built on trust. The smartest jerk in the room at the end of the day is still a jerk. Cut out the unnecessary tension and change your attitude.

The tension of time

The greatest commodity of any leader is time. Using it wisely is essential to your success. The demands on your time will create tension. Jim Rohn observed, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” If you don’t take control of your time and schedule someone else will. The tension lies somewhere between your intent to manage your time and giving time to the people around you who need it. Striking a balance is not always easy. Develop a system that works for you then stick to it. Tension over time is less likely to occur when managed properly.

Let me be clear – you will have tensions in your leadership. The key is to be flexible and a willingness to bend when necessary.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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Turning Your Fear into Fuel


Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear. – Dale Carnegie

I read a story not long ago that Louis Pasteur is reported to have had such an irrational fear of dirt and infection he refused to shake hands. President and Mrs. Benjamin Harrison were so intimidated by the newfangled electricity installed in the White House they didn’t dare touch the switches. If there were no servants around to turn off the lights when the Harrisons went to bed, they slept with them on.

What fear or phobia do you struggle with? I came across a list of the ten most common phobias and as it turns out mine is at the top of the list. Ask my family and they will tell you that my arachnophobia- the fear of spiders, can be rather entertaining at times.

But what’s not amusing or entertaining is when as leaders we allow fear to hold us back and keep us from reaching our full potential. How you address those fears can be defining moments that will either stall you where you are or move you forward. Turning your fear into fuel is the key to your success. Here are four ways you can do it.

Don’t allow fear to define you

A leader who is fearful will never succeed. Be it a fear of failure, other people’s opinion, or fear of the unknown- fear is the chief enemy of your future. If you allow fear to define you then fear will always control you. Every leader struggles with doubts and fears. It’s normal. But struggling with it is not the same as embracing it. Turn your fear into fuel by never surrendering your identity as a leader to fear.

Don’t allow fear to contain you

Fear has a way of boxing you in with wrong beliefs, wrong assumptions, and wrong views of your true worth and ability. Fear not only restricts your growth and development as a leader, but it restricts all the possibilities of your future. Fear is a trap that is hard to escape. You turn your fear into fuel when you hold yourself to a higher view of yourself. You are not the sum of your fears and doubts – you are the product of your Creator and your future has meaning and purpose.

Don’t allow fear to direct you

People who are driven by fear are not in control of their destiny.  They are backseat drivers on a road to nowhere. Fear is a dead-end street that and will always disappoint. The road to success for you as a leader becomes a reality when you rise above your fears, shake off doubts, tune out the critics, and dare to take charge of your destiny. The fuel that drives your success is a passion for knowing who you are and that you have a compelling vision and plan to get there.

Don’t allow fear to confuse you

As a leader it’s important to understand that reservations and doubts at times are a normal part of the growing process. But don’t make the mistake of believing that your gut instincts are fear-driven. As you grow and mature as leader you will develop deeper levels of discernment regarding such things. But don’t confuse discernment and reasonable reservations with fear. So what’s the difference? Fears pander to worse-case scenarios and outcomes. Discernment relies on formulated wisdom- which at times may nix a decision about the future, and at times give the green light, but is always based on best-case scenarios. Turn your fear into fuel by trusting your instincts, trusting your team, and by moving forward with confidence.

Be assured that as you deal with your fears as a leader you are not alone. Fear is no respecter of persons and you will contend with it on your leadership journey. But with every victory over fear you become that much stronger, wiser, and empowered for the future. Face your fears with confidence that there is no fear that can defeat you.


© 2015 Doug Dickerson




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