Six Threats Every Leader Will Face


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Strong convictions precede great actions. – James Freeman Clarke

The legendary bare-knuckles boxing champion John L. Sullivan was confronted by a runt of a man who, suffering from the effects of too much drink, challenged the burly champion to a fight. Sullivan, who once battled toe-to-toe with an opponent for 75 rounds, growled, “Listen, you, if you hit me just once — and I find out about it …” The Champ didn’t need to finish the sentence!

Hang around in leadership long enough and you will have your share of challenges and threats. While they may not be physical in nature, threats to your leadership and how you handle them is important. Some threats are obvious while others can seem rather innocent. If left unchecked they can threaten your effectiveness going forward.

Identifying the threats to your leadership is helpful if you are going to succeed. Here are six common ones. Which one is the most pressing to you?

The threat against your values.

Your values and character are the cornerstones of your leadership. Threats against your character will come and how you deal with it will make you or break you. Don’t take threats to your values lightly. Be diligent and accountable. Make sure that your values are clear and non-negotiable.

The threat against your time.

One of the largest challenges you will face as a leader is time management. If you are not intentional about the priorities of your day or take ownership of your time then someone else will. If something is a priority to you then it should be a priority in your schedule. From family, children, work, deadlines, meetings, etc…set your pace, set your priorities, and stick to it.

The threat against your expectations.

Expectations fuel your dreams and goals. Threats to your expectations surface when people see the obstacles and not the opportunities. Threats to your leadership occur when people opt for what’s safe instead of what’s hard. Bring these people up to your level of expectations if you can but never retreat.

The threat against your personal growth and development.

If you are not growing as a leader you are in decline as a leader. Personal growth and development is fundamental to good leadership. When you commit to grow and develop it will expand your horizons and will open up a whole new arena of possibilities. Never stop growing.

The threat against your health.

Leaders are busy and are often under a great deal of stress. Don’t allow the responsibilities of your leadership to cause you to neglect your health. A healthy diet with exercise is important not only to your physical health but it will keep you refreshed mentally and emotionally. In addition, your spiritual health is not one to neglect either. When you can tap in to the inspiration that your faith provides it can replenish your heart and mind. Healthy leaders are productive leaders.

The threat against yourself.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Often it’s not the jerk down the hall that’s my greatest threat- it’s the one in the mirror. When my body is tired and my attitude stinks then the potential to make a mess of things is magnified. Can you relate? As you work on the fundamentals of your leadership remember that first and foremost it’s an inside job. Before you can lead others you must learn to lead yourself.

What do you say?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson



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My Week in Costa Rica

Our amazing team at one of the local schools.

Our amazing team at one of the local schools.

Lose yourself in generous service and every day can be a most unusual day, a triumphant day, an abundantly rewarding day! – William Arthur Ward

I had the joy and privilege of spending the past week in Costa Rica. I led a team of some of the most amazing people to work with Give A Book that my brother, Carl, has operated there for nearly 20 years.

Our team, though small in number by design, was comprised of people from all walks of life including some special friends from Canada.

We had the opportunity to go into six schools to distribute books, love on the children, and see the world through their eyes. And what a beautiful world it is.

The children were so proud to get new books.

The children were so proud to get new books.


Team members reading and interacting with the children in their classrooms.

Playing with the children at one of the schools.

Playing with the children at one of the schools.

The children, teachers, and workers in the schools were so appreciative of the books and welcomed us like heroes. Give a Book has also formed great partnerships with Peace Corp volunteers to assist in the efforts in the local schools. The Rotary Club has long been a supporter of the foundation’s literacy initiatives.

It was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who said, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” And that is the driving force behind the work of Give a Book. Instilling a love of reading and literacy over the past twenty years has enlarged the lives of countless children and has helped hundreds of schools.

The smile on this little girls face says it all.

The smile on this little girls face says it all.

Yes, they love to be in selfies!

Yes, they love to be in selfies!










The experience with Give a Book is quite unique. Each trip is customized to not only meet the objective of the organization but to place you in a specific region of the country where you’d like work. That can be in the Central Valley region, along the coast, or out in more remote locations including the Rain Forest.

In addition to being involved in the schools there is the special opportunity to be immersed in the local culture that most people never see.

Then of course there is the opportunity to take in the most spectacular sights and scenery you can feast your eyes upon. From the Poas volcano, Doka Coffe Estate, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, etc. this beautiful country will capture your heart.

At the Poas Volcano.

At the Poas Volcano.

Waterfall at the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens

Waterfall at the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens

Our team at the La Paz Waterfall Garden.

Our team at the La Paz Waterfall Garden.

My week in Costa Rica was amazing. It was not my first trip there and it won’t be my last. I am planning more.






Team members working in the warehouse of the Give a Book Foundation.

Team members working in the warehouse of the Give a Book Foundation.

If you are as passionate about books and literacy as I am and would be interested in being on a team with me in the future let me know. I’d love to take you. Of course, you can work directly with Carl as well.

For now, let me encourage you to visit the websites of Give a Book and the incredible work they do.

Visit their Facebook page at:

On the web at:

If you’d be interested in joining me on a trip in the future email me at:

To reach out to Carl about a trip for your organization email him at:

With my brother, Carl. His heart for the children of Costa Rica and his literacy work there is truly inspiring.

With my brother, Carl, (left). His heart for the children of Costa Rica and his literacy work there is truly inspiring.



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Leadership Essentials: Communicating with Clarity


The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.   – Peter Drucker

A worker asked for a pay raise and got this note back from his supervisor: “Because of the fluctuation predisposition of your position’s productive capacity as juxtaposed to standard norms, it would be momentarily injudicious to advocate your requested increment.” The puzzled worker went to the supervisor and said, “Is this is about my pay raise I don’t get?” “That’s right,” said the supervisor.

As a leader one of the most important skills you will develop is communication. Unfortunately, it’s becoming one of the hardest skills to develop. The reasons for this vary. On the bright side, technology has increased our ability to communicate like never before. On the down side, conversational and social skills have waned because we prefer to text or send an email- thus avoiding actual human interaction.

Communicating with clarity is important for you as a leader. Those you lead don’t need to be like the man in the story above trying to figure out what you are saying. Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind going forward.

Keep it simple

Avoid as much as possible all the fancy corporate jargon. Keep it simple. Your goal here is not to impress people with your vocabulary but to inspire your team with your words and actions.

Keep it pithy

Don’t waste your people’s time with never ending meetings and chasing proverbial rabbits. The longer things drag out the more your people tune out. Have an objective, stick to it, and get going.

Be transparent

Nothing will endear your people to you more than to by being open and honest about where you are personally, where things are as an organization, and by reminding your people of the vision and the role they play in fulfilling it.

Be inclusive

Clarity is essential throughout your organization. As the leader you need to make sure everyone knows your heart and that you have their backs, and that they have all the knowledge and information they need to be successful.

Know when to speak, and speak on purpose

When communicating with your people it is important that you have a reason and purpose behind it. What you say and how you say it is important. What a team members “hears” and interprets may be very different from said and meant. Before you speak, think it through and put yourself in their shoes.

Know when to shut up

I’ve saved the most important for last. Clarity comes to us best not when we are speaking but when we are listening. The most powerful communication skill you have is your silence and your open mind. It is when you listen to your people that you have your greatest moments of clarity. Someone once said, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” That’s great advice.

Communicating with clarity is essential to your success as a leader. Use these guidelines as starting points and build upon them. Your success as a leader depends upon it.

What tips would you add?


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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Three Questions for the Gray Areas of Leadership


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I love the gray areas, but I like the gray areas as considered by bright, educated, courageous people. – Alan Furst

A story is told of Lord Halifax, a former foreign secretary of Great Britain, who once shared a railway compartment with two prim-looking spinsters. A few moments before reaching his destination the train passed through a tunnel. In the utter darkness Halifax kissed the back of his hand noisily several times.

When the train drew into the station, he rose, lifted his hat, and in a gentlemanly way said, “May I thank whichever one of you two ladies I am indebted to for the charming incident in the tunnel.” He then beat a hasty retreat, leaving the two ladies glaring at each other.

I can just imagine the reaction of the two ladies when Lord Halifax left the compartment. Do you think they ever figured out that they had both been played? What lingering doubts did they leave with?

As leaders we pride ourselves in our values, mission statements, and principles that we subscribe to personally and professionally. But sooner or later our beliefs and assumptions will be challenged. Gray areas will emerge. What we once thought of in strict black and white terms become clouded. Now what?

Here are three guiding questions worth asking when the answers aren’t so clear.

  1. What does my head say?

When faced with gray areas in your leadership you can use your cognitive skills to walk       through all available options. Not every circumstance you face as a leader is going to have an answer readily available in some employee manual collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. There will be situations thrown at you that you didn’t prepare for nor did you see coming.

The key for you as a leader is to think through the situation and in a level-headed way in order to chart a path forward. One simple way to navigate through the gray area is to ask how your decision will either uphold or take away from your values.

  1. What does my heart say?

Gray areas compel us to think different. We wrestle with the gray areas because intuitively we know that life is not always predictable. Stuff happens. Our cognitive skills are important, but there does come a time we have to think with our hearts. Some situations call for emotional intelligence to find the answers we need.

The key for you as a leader is striking a balance between what you know in your heart and what you know in your head. How do you reconcile the two in gray areas to arrive at the best solution?

  1. What does my history say?

As a leader no doubt you’ve struggled with gray areas. Beliefs that you once thought were “settled” some time ago suddenly resurface and challenge your beliefs today. I’ve been there many times. Your growth as a leader is always evolving. The challenges you faced five, ten, twenty years ago are going to look different from the challenges you face today. And they should.

The key to dealing with gray areas in your leadership is to utilize all three questions in your approach. Welcome gray areas as an opportunity to grow and develop as a leader. In the end; trust your head, trust your heart, and lean on your history. This is where your judgment in dealing with the gray areas has been formed.


© 2016 Doug Dickerson

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Leadership Lessons from Pat Summitt


“She could have coached any team, any sport, men’s or women’s. It wouldn’t have mattered, because Pat could flat-out coach. I will miss her dearly, and I am honored to call her my friend.” – Peyton Manning

As a native Tennessean and a proud member of Vol Nation, I was deeply saddened by the recent passing of legendary Coach Pat Summitt. Her passing due to Alzheimer’s at the age of 64 was a great loss and it’s hard to put into words how deeply she will be missed.

There is no doubt Pat Summitt made her mark on the game of women’s basketball. For almost 40 years as the head coach she led the Lady Vols to 8 national championships, 31 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and amassed along the way a record of 1,098 wins.

I had the honor of meeting Pat Summitt a few times and she was always gracious and a class act. Her leadership on and off the court was truly inspiring. Her legacy will live on in her players and in the coaches who served alongside of her and through the work of her foundation.

I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite Pat Summitt quotes for your consideration and how they might be a source of inspiration for you.

“It’s harder to stay on top than it is to make the climb. Continue to seek now goals.”

“Success is a project that’s always under construction.”

“Here’s how I am going to beat you. I’m going to outwork you. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.”

“There is always someone better than you. Whatever it is that you for a living, chances are, you will run into a situation in which you are not as talented as the person next to you. That’s when being a competitor can make a difference in your fortunes.”

“Teamwork is what makes common people capable of achieving uncommon results.”

“You can’t always be the most talented person in the room. But you can be the most competitive.”

“If you don’t want responsibility, don’t sit in the big chair. To be successful, you must accept full responsibility.”

“I’m someone who will push you beyond all reasonable limits. Someone who will ask you not to just fulfill your potential but to exceed it. Someone who will expect more from you than you may believe you are capable of.”

“When a player makes a mistake, you always want to put them back in quickly — you don’t just berate them and sit them down with no chance of redemption.”

“Quit? Quit? We keep score in life because it matters. It counts. Too many people opt out and never discover their own abilities, because they fear failure. They don’t understand commitment. When you learn to keep fighting in the face of potential failure, it gives you a larger skill set to do what you want to do.”

When reading her quotes you get a glimpse into what made her not only a great coach but a great mentor, friend, and inspiration to so many.

In honor or her legacy I’d like to encourage my readers who are so inclined in joining me in making a donation to The Pat Summitt Foundation. The foundation works in partnership with the University of Tennessee Medical Center for research in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Visit the website at:


© 2016 Doug Dickerson




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