Are We Keeping Pace As Leaders?

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The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang. – Mary Kay Ash


After watching this video entitled Did You Know, I will confess that I have more questions than I have answers. Perhaps you have seen the video before. It’s been updated and is well worth the look. Here are a few highlights taken from it:

  • China will soon become the Number One English speaking country in the world.
  • The 25% of India’s population with the highest I.Q.’s is greater than the population of the United States. Translation: India has more honor kids than America has kids.
  • The Top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
  • We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.
  • There are 845 million monthly active users on Facebook. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest (behind China and India).
  • Twitter is seeing about 50 million tweets per day, That breaks down to about 600 per second.
  • The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the total population of the planet.
  • It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.
  • The amount of technical information is doubling every two years. For students starting a 4-year degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study.

The pace at which our world is changing is breathtaking. We truly live in remarkable times. And this leads to many questions so please indulge me. My focus here is not so much about leadership “tips” or quick anecdotes, but rather reflective questions meant to awaken the leader in all of us. My questions are rhetorical but also intentional. You may have the same ones. Hopefully, you will have additional ones. I would sure like to hear them. Here are a few of mine:

  • Are we as leaders cognizant of how rapidly our world is changing around us and are we ahead of the curve or behind it?
  • What are the best leadership practices or beliefs that transcend time or culture?
  • In what ways have technologies helped us as leaders? In what ways has it hurt?
  • How do the changes that are taking place in our world change the way in which we as leaders relate to people today and going forward?
  • What will be our most essential leadership skills ten years from now? Will they be the same as today?
  • Are we raising up leaders today to meet the challenges of leadership tomorrow?
  • Do I have a mindset that is slanted toward embracing the changes that are happening or is it a fixed mindset that has me stuck?
  • Do I need to change my current leadership style to prepare me for the future?

John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law  of life.” He was right. Change is happening at a faster pace than perhaps any of us ever expected. Are we keeping pace?


© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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The Things That Matter Most

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It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are. – Roy E. Disney

In his new book No Limits, John Maxwell makes a profound statement worth consideration. He writes, “Today I am far less interested in certainty about many things and much more interested in clarity about the few things that matter.”

The statement comes on the heels of writing about how he relies less on his beliefs, which over the years have become fewer and fewer, and more on values which do not change. He adds, “Every time you learn something new, your beliefs adjust. In my lifetime I’ve let go of dozens and dozens of beliefs that I once possessed just because I learned more or experienced more.”

It caused me to reflect on my own personal and leadership journeys. I can also look back now and see where certain beliefs have changed over time. Clarity of values has brought perspective which in turn has brought much more meaning to life.

Where are you on your journey? Your belief systems are vitally important and I do not wish to diminish them. But perhaps a shift, no matter how small, toward having more clarity over your values is in order. Beliefs will change over time and through life experiences, but your values are your foundation. Here’s why they are important.

Values clarify your why

Your life’s purpose, both personally and professionally, is rooted in your values. Life has meaning and fulfillment when you know why you were placed on this earth. When you have more clarity about why you are here then everything else you do toward that end makes more sense. No longer is it a chore, it’s a calling.

Values clarify your passion

Passion alone is not enough. I can get passionate about losing weight for a week or two, but if I don’t have the discipline to follow through it won’t be enough. Passion is the fuel for your purpose. When you understand why you are here and the purpose behind it, then your passion will be contagious.

Values clarify your character

Maxwell devotes a section to the role that values play in determining your character. He writes, “Our values determine our character, and our character determines the direction we will go in life.” Clarity of values is critical to understanding the kind person you will be because your character flows from it. Whatever station you are at in life – husband, wife, father, mother, executive, leader, etc., what will set you apart is that you are a person of character. In short – clarify your values, clarify your character.

Values clarify your focus

Maxwell said he was far less interested in certainty about many things and much more concerned about clarity in the few things that matter. What great perspective!

What about you? How different would your life be right now if you began making the shift away from wanting certainty about many things to clarity about the few things that matter most? In this stage of your life right now, what are the few things that matter most?

We want certainty because we have a sense of security attached to it, but life takes on a whole new meaning when we can look at it with clarity. That’s when you understand what matters most.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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Six Leadership Lessons from Winston Churchill

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The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes –Winston Churchill

As a student of leadership, I have much respect for Winston Churchill. As a student of history, I have an even greater appreciation for his leadership skills in a most turbulent time in world history. His strength and resolve during World War II gave the British people hope in their darkest hours. His courage and sense of purpose were the driving force that ultimately led the Allies to victory.

Step back in time with me and let Churchill’s own words teach us some time-tested leadership lessons that are applicable today. Here are six of my favorites.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

If you are going to last as a leader you have to let this truth resonate down deep. Every leader experiences failure. But failure does not define you- it shapes you. A failure is merely an event that happens on the road to success. What matters is not that you failed or even tasted the joy of success, but that you had the courage to continue.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

This is such a valuable lesson to learn as a leader. Many have made the mistake of buying into the old notion that the one with the most toys wins. But true leadership is not about what you get but rather about what you give. The world will be a little better than you found it when you come to discover the joy of giving.

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

Churchill was greatly admired but he also had plenty of enemies. While the consequences may not be as significant as what Churchill faced, you too will have your share of critics. But regardless of the challenges that you face and the enemies who would seek to harm you; hold true to your principles and hold true to your convictions. Stand up for what is right and do good by all men.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

In the face of overwhelming odds and at times great calamity Churchill held on to what I would label his trump card. It’s what would give him the courage to move forward in the darkest hours of the war and is what would give his countrymen hope. Succinctly and truthfully put – Churchill’s attitude was a life saver. Never underestimate the power of a positive attitude. As a leader is will make you or break you.

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

As a leader, you choose your attitude and you choose your state of mind. If there was ever a leader who could have chosen a different path and projected a totally different outlook it was Churchill. With the relentless bombing raids on London; the tremendous loss of life coupled with all of the sufferings that took place, Churchill could have fallen victim to despair. But his optimism would one day lead to victory. I don’t know the challenges you face today but I do know this much – being optimistic is a choice that will put you on the right path.

Lady Astor: “Winston, if I were your wife I’d put poison in your coffee.” Winston Churchill: “Nancy, if I were your husband I’d drink it.”

Humor was one of Churchill’s endearing qualities. His quick wit and sense of humor were a reflection of the total man who took his work seriously but knew the importance of enjoying a light moment. His humor was as much an integral part of his leadership style as any other trait. Your life in leadership will be marked by important decisions and things that will define your legacy. Churchill reminds us that having a sense of humor makes it all bearable. So remember this important principle in your leadership – it’s okay to smile, laugh; especially at yourself, and enjoy the journey.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

  • This week’s column is courtesy of the vault. It was originally published in 2015.


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Are You Playing To Your Strengths?

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Focusing on our own strengths is what, in fact, makes us strong. – Simon Sinek

A recent story in the Gallup Business Journal revealed that only twenty percent of U.S. Workers think that their jobs use their strengths. It said, “Identifying strengths and fulfilling natural potential has never been more important for students and employees. In the United States alone, just 13% of workers say they find their work meaningful, and a mere 20% think they’re in jobs that use their talents”.

The fact that so many companies are failing to tap into the strengths of their employees is troubling. How can these companies expect to compete when the best that their employees have to offer is going unutilized? Is it any wonder then that only 13% of workers say that their work is not meaningful?

Bridging the gap between unsatisfied employees and those who actually do play to their strengths is a leadership challenge that must be tackled. Here are a few things that we, as leaders, need to do:

Know strengths before you hire

Knowing a potential employee’s strengths before hiring is just common sense. Why would you even consider someone for a position if that person does not possess the skill sets needed or without knowing whether or not that person would be playing to their strengths? Why set someone up to be unfulfilled, miserable, and ultimately fail? When hiring, don’t drop the ball; find out what strengths the candidate possesses and place them accordingly.

Reevaluate strengths on a regular basis

Our hope is that our employees are continually growing and improving. It is important that you reevaluate employees’ strengths on a regular basis. Are they ready for more responsibility? Would they benefit from gaining experience in a new area? Is the position where they serve still a good fit? Make sure your knowledge on where employees’ strength lie is always up-to-date. Make ongoing training a part of their empowering process.

Don’t allow the position to define the person, let the person define the position

A cookie-cutter approach to filling positions within your organization typically centers around the “duties” of the job. While that is important to understand, the position must not define the person. In the final analysis, you are hiring a person, not a position. A person will only be fulfilled when he or she plays to their strengths. This is what matters most. Hire qualified employees, put them in positions where they can best utilize their strengths, and then get out of the way and allow them to make the position their own.

People will thrive when they play to their strengths

People find their work meaningful when they are playing to their strengths. When they feel they are contributing in meaningful ways they will produce at higher levels and everyone wins.The right people in wrong positions will only lead to low morale and poor performance. Make sure you know where your employees’ strengths lie and then give them the opportunity to utilize those strengths in defining their position and contribution to the organization.

The fact that only 20% of employees are in jobs where they believe that their talents are being used is a sign of deficient leadership. This trend can be reversed but it has to start with a fresh approach to your leadership and recognition and respect for what employee strengths can contribute to the organization.

Employee engagement can be a challenge on good days. Don’t complicate things from an organizational standpoint by not allowing people to play to their strengths. Unleash their potential to be their best.

© 2017 Doug Dickerson & Liz Stincelli


Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


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Death By A Thousand Titles

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Success is not a function of the size of your title but the richness of your contribution. – Robin S. Sharma

I’m sure if you’ve been in leadership circles long enough you’ve heard the adage, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”. And it happens for good reason. A person with a title gets a position and then suddenly they think they know it all. Instead of growing into their leadership potential they fall back on their title to push their agenda and ideas.

A must-read for all leaders is John Maxwell’s book The Five Levels of Leadership. It should be required reading for all organizations and their leaders.

In the book, Maxwell walks the reader through the five levels beginning with level one, the lowest level – position. While it is a starting place for leaders it’s not where you want to stay. One of the main problems, as Maxwell points out, with positional leaders is that they want to “focus on control instead contribution.” And this is why people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.

Positional thinking for any organization is like death by a thousand cuts (titles). It’s not necessarily one thing that is the deal breaker for people, but the culmination of bad leadership behaviors over time that seals the deal. It’s management by decree in place of leadership by example. It’s painful to watch, and horrible to experience. But what do those mindsets and thinking sound like? I will highlight a few that Maxwell describes.

Top down – “I’m over you”

The person with a title can either be humble or arrogant. They can take advantage of the opportunity they now have to learn, mature, grow, and develop into a good leader. Or they can be arrogant and think they are important because they have a title. When a leader relies on a position rather than influence to get things done it’s death by a thousand titles.

Power – “I determine your future”

Positional leaders on power trips will kill your organization. This mindset is counterproductive to any that wants to move forward. Sadly, the good people working for this type of positional leader will soon move on. Leaders who like to wield this kind of power soon find that there’s no one left to control. It’s death by a thousand titles.

Selfishness – “You’re here to help me”

For the positional leader, it’s all about them. You will fall into their good graces of leadership so long as you understand that is your role. Not the other way around.The antithesis of this, of course, is servant leadership. As you mature as a leader you learn that it is not about you and that the best way to lead is by serving others. A selfish leader is only thinking about his or her self-preservation. Everything else and everyone else is subservient to that end. Organizationally, it’s death by a thousand titles.

Rules – “The manual says”

Positional leaders are big fans of the rule book and the manual. This, of course, kills morale, stifles creativity, and otherwise makes life unbearable for those actually trying to make a difference. Howard Behar described it best when he said that what organizations need is not a rulebook but a playbook. Unfortunately, the positional leader doesn’t yet have the skill and foresight to lead any other way than by the book, not realizing that much of leadership is by the heart. Organizationally, it’s death by a thousand titles.

Having a title doesn’t make you a leader. It simply means as Maxwell points out, that you have leadership potential. Your growth as a leader will be accelerated as you stop relying on your title and use your people skills. This begins by practicing servant leadership. As a leader you must come to know, it’s not about you.


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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On The Other Side Of Fear

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We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his book Intentional Living, John Maxwell describes the faith factor as it relates to connecting us with like-minded people. In a more personal way, he relates the role fear plays in preventing us from reaching our goals and dreams. Maxwell states, “Fear is the most prevalent reason why people stop. Faith is what makes people start.” Over the years I’ve had my fill of fears. I reckon it’s possible you have as well.

If you’re like me, you possess no shortage of ideas or goals you’d like to achieve. I’ll admit some ideas were perhaps conceived too soon, some a little too late, while others just died a slow death due to the restraints of time. Can you relate?

Yet there are some dreams and goals that died a slow death for another reason- fear. We’ve all wrestled with fears. I remember in Little Leagues it was always the fear of striking out. In school, I had test anxiety. Fear would get the best of me that I would fail. Even today I struggle with another fear- arachnophobia- the fear of spiders. What are yours?

Thankfully, Maxwell’s depiction of fear and the struggles we all face didn’t stop there. He went on to point how faith makes up for our fear and when applied in our lives can turn the tide in our favor. Maxwell said, “Faith does not make things easy, but it makes things possible because it puts everything, including fear, into the right perspective. So, if you want to learn, to grow, to achieve your dreams of significance to make a difference, have faith”.

How different would your life look if the decisions you made, whether those decisions are personal or professional, look if they were made through the lens of faith rather than through the lens of fear? How would things look on the other side of fear? Here’s my challenge to you.

Lead on the other side of fear

Imagine the kind of influence you could have as a leader if you opted for faith over fear? Fear will paralyze you as a leader and hinder you from becoming all God created you to be. When you lead with faith it will bury your fears and you will lead on a new level. Living on the other side of fear doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts or have questions, it just means that it’s a burden that doesn’t rest entirely on your shoulders anymore. Faith takes the weight off, fear puts it on.

Dream on the other side of fear

I know all too well what happens to dreams when fear sets in. They die. How many dreams of yours have suffered an untimely death because of fear? Fear will keep your dreams small. But I’d rather fail on the other side of fear with a God-inspired dream than succeed knowing I didn’t need God’s help. As Mark Batterson says, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.”

Serve on the other side of fear

When you live your life free from fear you live a life that is a peace. You are at peace knowing that you don’t have to worry about what other people think about you, say about you, or otherwise interfere with your life’s purpose. You are free to lead with your heart and serve causes greater than yourself. Fear is a speed-bump on the road to being a blessing to others. Get rid of the fear.

Grow on the other side of fear

Fear stunts your growth on many levels. It can rob you of your dreams, goals, creativity, and productivity to name a few. But when you feed your faith and starve your fears you position yourself for unprecedented personal and professional growth.

I am in no way suggesting here to throw caution to the wind and chase your dreams on blind faith. It pays to be prudent and listen to wise counsel. But well-meaning people along the way will fuel your faith or they will fuel your fears. You must not allow fear to win. Faith is hard because of the unknown. But with fear, the unseen and unattained dreams and goals will always be that–unseen and unfulfilled.

A wonderful life in leadership awaits you. It’s on the other side of fear.

© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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Growing Big, Staying Small

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Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. – Henry Ford

In his book, It’s Not About the Coffee, Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks International, recounts a fascinating story about attaining the kind of culture every company wants. Behar says one concept that he learned and developed from Howard Schultz was, “The fundamental task is to achieve smallness while growing big”.

It almost sounds like a contradiction upon first glance. How does one actually go about achieving smallness? What does it look and how can it improve the culture of any company? How could it improve yours?

Behar relates one custom that became part of Starbucks culture. The writing of cards. Each month he would write birthday and anniversary cards to everyone in the organization. It started with about sixty cards a month. Behar says that by the time he retired he was sending out more than five hundred a month.

In a time when company culture and employee engagement are the buzzwords and people are trying to figure out what it means, is it possible that we are simply over thinking it?

Maybe it has nothing to do with how big we are thinking and the grand schemes and plans of making improvements. Is it possible that employee engagement and company culture is not working as it should because we are not thinking small enough?

At the end of the day here is what we must remember: it’s all about people. Call it company culture, employee engagement, call it whatever you wish- but it all boils down to people and how you make them feel. Do they feel appreciated? Do they feel valued? How are you showing it?

An article in Talent Culture revealed that employees who “feel valued by their employer are significantly more likely to be motivated to do their very best (93 percent vs. 33 percent).” In addition, it said that “those who do not feel valued are significantly more likely to seek new employment within 12 months (50 percent vs. 21 percent)”. Look within your organization. How many people are motivated to perform at their very best? How many people do you suppose are looking for new jobs?

Growing big and thinking small is not a mutually exclusive goal. But it will require intentional thinking and action on your part as a leader. Here are a few ways you will have to do it.

Think small relationally

It makes no difference if your vision or goals are big or small, it only comes into existence through the dedication and hard work of your people. Every leader should take the advice of John Maxwell who said, “Always touch a person’s heart before you ask for a hand.” You must connect relationally before you can ask people to help you reach your goals.They must first buy-in to you before you can expect them to buy-in to your vision.

Think small serving

It was a brilliant quote I still remember from the late Sam Walton who said, “The bigger we get the smaller we have to think, customers still walk in one at a time”. Whether it’s your employees whom you are serving or the customer base your organization caters to, the way you treat each individual makes a world of difference. Too often we worry about pleasing the masses and forget we still serve our employees and customers one at a time. If you do right by one, you will do right with many.

Think small growing

Intentional smallness is what Behar modeled by writing hundreds of cards a month. It happens with random acts of kindness in recognizing your people. It’s being intentional about building relationships. It’s about ensuring that your people feel valued, respected, empowered, and trusted. It’s about writing that card.

Growth begins to happens when you take care of building a powerful culture of smallness that gives you the momentum to become a big organization that held true to its most sacred values along the way.

Are you thinking small enough?


© 2017 Doug Dickerson

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