Leadership In a Word: Balance

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Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. – Albert Einstein

Word Study

a : stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis

  • when the two sides of the scale are in balance
  • tipped the statue off balance

b : equipoise between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements

  • … the balance we strike between security and freedom.
  • —Earl Warren
  • Both parties were interviewed to provide balance in the report.
  • the right balance of diet and exercise
  • Source: Merriam-Webster

A word about balance

The use of the word balance in leadership is hardly a new word. A simple Google search of “work-life balance” generated over 107 million hits. It’s showing up for a reason.

Maintaining a proper balance in your leadership is essential to your success. Dozens of studies have confirmed what most of us already know- when our lives- leadership included, are out of balance those areas in our lives begin to suffer. Or does it?

One approach to the whole work-life balance issue I’ve learned comes from Gary Keller in his book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. In it he writes:

To achieve an extraordinary result you must choose what matters most and give it all the time it demands. This requires getting extremely out of balance in relation to all other work issues, with only infrequent counterbalancing to address them. In your personal world, awareness is the essential ingredient. Awareness of your spirit and body, awareness of your family and friends, awareness of your personal needs–none of these things can be sacrificed if you intend to “have a life”, so you can never forsake them for work or one for the other. You can move back and forth quickly between these and often combine activities around them, but you can’t neglect any of them for long. Your personal life requires tight counterbalancing.

Perhaps, according to Keller, the answer is not sacrificing one for the other, but in finding that sweet spot of counterbalancing. As it relates to balance, maybe we need to be asking a different set of questions like:

What matters most?

Are you willing to “get out of balance” in order to achieve your goals?

Are you self-aware enough to not neglect other important areas in your life such as family, faith etc.?

The answers to these questions will dictate the trajectory of your leadership and help you establish your priorities. Think through your answers carefully.

Balance quotes

“Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward”. – Maxwell Maltz

“A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” – William Arthur Ward

“There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” – Jack Welch

“The trick to balance is to not make sacrificing important things become the norm.” Simon Sinek

A final word

The pursuit of finding balance in our lives-juggling between work, family, raising children, etc. is a challenge for even the most experienced leader. One of the first steps to success in this area of leadership is found in simply acknowledging the challenge. Approaches to maintaining that work-life balance will differ person to person, but always be conscientious, proactive, and set your boundaries. Too much is riding on the outcome.


©2018 Doug Dickerson

*Note: Leadership In A Word is my writing theme for 2018. Each week the focus will be on a word that impacts you as a leader. My style is new but my message and commitment to delivering fresh leadership insight to you are the same. It’s my sincere desire to help you grow as a leader and to partner with you in reaching your full potential.

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Leadership In a Word: Empathy

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Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. – Mohsin Hamind

Word Study

1: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this

: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it. Source: Merriam–Webster

A word about empathy

Many characteristics belong in the mix for being a good leader. Empathy is crucial to that mix. That you have an awareness and intuition concerning the people you lead is essential to your success as a leader.

Too often however, many leaders are not engaged with the people they lead much less sensitive to their needs or receptive to their concerns.

Writing in usnews.com, Tom Risen cited a survey that showed “51 percent of U.S. managers are not engaged in their work, and another 14 percent are actively disengaged”.  With this type of disengagement taking place in the workplace, is it any wonder that empathy is a leadership skill that needs to be addressed?

While some may be dismissive of the importance of empathy in leadership-that it’s just a “soft skill” that’s beneath them, I respectfully disagree.

What would the landscape of your organization look like if more leaders in it took the time to be invested and empathetic? How would morale be different? What if you, as a leader, were more intentional about the concerns of the people you lead? What would those characteristics look like? Here is a sampling.

The empathetic leader is connected to his people

The key to understanding your people is being with your people. The basis for effective leadership is found in building relationships. The disconnect many leaders struggle with is predicated on and is the consequence of poor relationships. If as a leader you are not working on the relationship the divide and disconnect will only widen.

The empathetic leader cares about his people

The most appreciable asset any leader has is his or her people. As you develop empathy as a leader you will come to discover that the success of your people is your success. Their concerns are your concerns. Their frustrations are your frustrations. And at the end of the day, their wins are your wins. With empathy, you put yourself in their shoes and commit yourself to doing everything within your power to ensure their success.

The empathetic leader listens to his people

Simply put, there’s  no magic wand that a leader can wave to make them more empathetic. It’s a skill that is developed over time. It’s a two-fold process in which being intentional about it is paramount. Unless you commit yourself to the development of this skill it’s not going to just happen.

But just as important is art of listening. Empathetic leaders are careful and intentional about listening to their  people. It’s when your people have your ear, you will have their heart.  It’s as you listen to your people that trust is established, morale rebounds, loyalty is secured, and your leadership is proven. Listening is for your benefit just as much as it is theirs. Listening is not about appeasement, it’s about action.

Empathy quotes

“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” – Stephen Covey

“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” – Maya Angelou

“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something.” H. Jackson Brown

“Empathy is the greatest virtue. From it, all virtues flow. Without it, all virtues are an act.” Eric Zorn

A final word

Empathy will elevate your leadership and it will help you build positive relationships with your people. It’s when you empathize with your people that you can more effective in leading them.


©2018 Doug Dickerson

*Note: Leadership In A Word is my writing theme for 2018. Each week the focus will be on a word that impacts you as a leader. My style is new but my message and commitment to delivering fresh leadership insight to you are the same. It’s my sincere desire to help you grow as a leader and to partner with you in reaching your full potential.

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Leadership In A Word: Courage

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It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. – E. E. Cummings

Word Study

  1. 1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) “heart, innermost feelings; temper,” from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor “heart” (from PIE root *kerd-heart”). Words for “heart” also commonly are metaphors for inner strength. In Middle English, used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts,” hence “bravery,” but also “wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,” or any sort of inclination. Replaced Old English ellen, which also meant “zeal, strength.” Source: etymonline.com

A word about courage

Author Leo Buscaglia tells a story about his mother and their “misery dinner.” It was the night after his father came home and said it looked as if he would have to go into bankruptcy because his partner had absconded with their firm’s funds. His mother went out and sold some jewelry to buy food for a sumptuous feast. Other members of the family scolded her for it. But she told them that “the time for joy is now when we need it most, not next week.” Her courageous act rallied the family.

Courageous leadership is not a hard thing to summon when times are good. But it can be more challenging in the face of adversity. For you, as a leader, it can be a game changer. It can make the difference between success and failure.

Think for a moment about where you are in your leadership journey. In what areas do you need to be more courageous? What fear or attitude is holding you back? As you go into 2018, let me encourage you to find courage in three specific areas.

Courage to run your own race

Your leadership journey is just that – yours. Let 2018 be the year to once and for all stop measuring your value and worth up against someone else’s. Stop with the comparisons. Embrace your own worth, value, and God-given abilities and stop worrying about what other people say or think.

Courage to break new barriers

Barriers to your leadership and how far you can go are not always defined by other people. Sometimes we are the ones holding ourselves back with our own limited thinking and attitudes. I’d like to challenge you this year to summon the courage to break new barriers and pursue your dreams. New opportunities are achieved and barriers are overcome by developing a courageous mindset and belief system.

Courage to embrace change

One of the keys to your success as a leader is to embrace the changes that will ultimately come your way. Find the courage to think to think differently when required, to change your perspective, and be open to new ideas. Values and principles are largely settled matters of leadership. Practices tend to be fluid and evolving. Your learning and application are constant. Summon the courage to embrace change.

Courage quotes

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction” – John F. Kennedy

“Jump and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall” – Ray Bradbury

“Courage is grace under fire” – Ernest Hemingway

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 ESV

A final word

As a leader in today’s world, you need courage. The courage you need to lead is gained with the confidence you have in yourself, with the people you surround yourself with, and your faith.

Let 2018 be your year for courageous leadership.

©2018 Doug Dickerson

*Note: Leadership In A Word is my writing theme for 2018. Each week the focus will be on a word that impacts you as a leader. My style is new but my message and commitment to delivering fresh leadership insight to you are the same. It’s my sincere desire to help you grow as a leader and to partner with you in reaching your full potential.


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Merry Christmas


I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I would also like to thank you for following my blog throughout the year and for your readership. It’s my great pleasure to bring you my leadership insights each week.

I trust that 2017 was a really good year for you and that 2018 will be your best ever! I look forward to bringing fresh content to you in the new year and all of us growing together.

So from my family to yours – Merry Christmas! I will see you back here the first of January.

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Four Leadership Lessons from Ebenezer Scrooge


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Hello, Ebenezer, I’ve been waiting here for you… – The Ghost of Jacob Marley

Listen to most any radio station and you will hear the Christmas Carols. The stores are decorated and the bells are ringing. Yes, Christmas is upon us. Are you ready? Are you in the Christmas spirit?

The festivities and good cheer can bring out the best in people. It’s a time to reflect, give thanks, and give back.

But it’s also a time to look back on another year before it closes out and reflect upon your progression as a leader and to make plans for your growth and development going into the New Year. With the help of one such literary character of Christmas, we will learn some lessons of leadership that can help you all year.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a favorite for many. It’s a timeless story that has entertained for generations. But let’s not overlook the leadership lessons that can be found in the story. Here are four.

Epiphany’s happen for a reason

As Scrooge was preparing for bed he was visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. Marley shows Scrooge the fate that had befallen him due to the way he abused the poor and hoarded his wealth. Marley’s fate was now to walk the earthbound in the chains of his own greed. Marley explains to Scrooge that this too would be his fate if he did not change his ways.

There comes a time in the life of every leader that you must take stock of who you are, where you are, and re-connect with your purpose in life. Your epiphany can be a wake-up call to make some major changes in your life or it can be to reaffirm the course you are on. But regardless, pay attention and heed the warnings.

Not everything that glitters is gold

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge on a stroll down memory lane from his time as a young man. He is seen enjoying a Christmas party given by his boss Mr. Fezziwig. But things take a foretelling turn when the ghost shows him a Christmas in which his fiancée, Belle, leaves him because she realizes he cares more about money than her. He then sees Belle several years later on Christmas Eve happily married to another man.

Scrooge was blinded by his love for money and by his greed. It became his identity. It was more important to him than relationships. In leadership the bottom line is not money; it’s people. Don’t mistake your money for power or your influence for integrity. They are not the same. When you are right on the issue of people and relationships everything else will eventually take care of itself.

Words matter

The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the festivities of London as well as a sickly Tiny Tim, Cratchit’s son. Upon expressing his concern for the boy, the ghost informs him that he will die unless something changes. The ghost uses Scrooge’s words about “decreasing the surplus population” against him. Presented with two more sick children to see, again, his own words, “Are there no prisons, no workhouses?” come back to haunt him.

As leaders, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and say things that we wish we could take back. I’ve spoken my fair share. How about you? Perhaps it’s time to learn how to pause a few seconds longer before speaking the first thing that comes to mind. How about a more kind and thoughtful approach? Make no mistake – words matter. And you can do a lot less damage with your mouth closed.

It’s never too late to change

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge Christmas Day one year later where Tiny Tim has died just as the previous spirit predicted he would. Then the ghost shows Scrooge scenes of the death of a “wretched man” and how some people make fun of him and are even relieved that he is dead. The ghost then shows Scrooge the tombstone- and it bears his name. Scrooge weeps over his grave and begs for another chance before awakening to find that it’s Christmas Day. A remorseful Scrooge repents and becomes a generous man. He visits Fred, gives Cratchit a raise, and takes Tiny Tim under his wings.

To be sure, leaders are human and come with many flaws. But the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is a reminder about the importance of generosity, the value of relationships, and what matters most in life. It’s a reminder about the importance our lives moving in the direction of redemption.

©2017 Doug Dickerson

*I wrote this article several years ago. I bring it back each year as a reminder to not be a Scrooge!

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Leadership And The Art of Change

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Life is a long process of getting used to things you started out to change. – Frank A. Clark

As the story goes, it was on June 4, 1783, at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, that a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines was a huge taffeta bag 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the balloon was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky.

Six thousand feet in the air it went—the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil.

From the earliest days of man, change has been a difficult proposition. We are creatures of comfort and creatures of habit. Shake up the apple cart and you will have a fight on your hands; especially if you are a leader. Take the workplace for example. In a recent survey commissioned by talent management firm Plateau and conducted by Harris Interactive, finds that 74% of workers-satisfied or not- would consider leaving if approached with another offer. In other words, change is always in the air – yes, even at your office.

Steven Covey said, “There are three constants in life; change, choice, and principles.” And as a leader how you integrate those truths is an important part of your leadership style. Here are three insights about change that will challenge the way you think about it and how it can help you as a leader.

The change we want – looks outward. In leadership when we think about the changes we want it usually has something to do with someone else. Our grumblings often center on what someone at the office is doing; or not doing, that frustrates us. People are not performing at the level you want, there is too much in-fighting or office politics, performance goals are not being met, etc.

The change you want is the frustration of your leadership. It is frustrating because it has you focused on things at the margins that steal quality time in terms of productivity. All you know is that you are frustrated and something has to change. And unfortunately, creating change out of frustration tends to lead to unhealthy choices regarding change and does not help you in the long term.

The change we need – looks inward. One of the hardest things for a leader to do is to look inward with a critical eye. The British politician Nancy Astor said, “The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything or nothing.” And so long as you want to change everything else but remain unwilling to change yourself it will remain an encumbrance on your leadership.

The change you need is the necessity of your leadership. It is when you honestly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses; your blind spots and attitudes that inward change begins. Improvement will only happen when you look honestly in the mirror and make the changes you need to make before expecting them from others. But it’s when you are transparent, ask for feedback, and demonstrate humility that you can begin to create a culture of change in your organization. And the day you learn to let go of the things you can’t change in other people is the day you let go of many of your frustrations as a leader.

The change we celebrate – looks upward. Max Depree said, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to by remaining what we are.” In leadership, the goal is not to sit back and rest in our comfort zones. We should constantly be striving to become what we need by embracing that which we must.  Change is a constant and we must welcome it and be open to it if we are to grow.

The change you celebrate is the blessing of your leadership. It is a blessing when you forget about trying to change other people and change yourself. It is a blessing when you embrace your calling and purpose as a leader and fulfill your destiny not because you resisted change but because you dared to welcome it.

© 2017 Doug Dickerson


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Milestones In Your Leadership

The spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. – Provided by the author.

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

Not long ago, I was in Washington D.C. for a speaking engagement. Afterward, I stayed a few extra days to take in some of the sights.

In the short time I was there, it would have been impossible to take in all that Washington has to offer. So I prioritized my choices and set out to make the most of it.

First on my list was an early morning stroll through the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. Although I had been there before, it was just as inspiring as ever. To walk among the lush hills where our national heroes like President John F. Kennedy are buried was quite moving.

But one of the most interesting experiences for me occurred on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. To be sure, it is an inspiring memorial to visit. On this given day it was quite busy with many people walking to the top of the steps to see the statue of Abraham Lincoln and his quotes that adorn the walls.

But very few noticed another piece of significant history engraved on the steps on the way up. It’s an inscription marking the spot where on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech. Most people missed the tribute to this epic piece of American history right under their feet.

Lincoln set into motion the freeing of the slaves eight-five miles away in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with the Emancipation Proclamation. One hundred and one years later, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King awakened the nation’s consciousness with the reminder that “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which comes back marked ‘insufficient funds’. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt”.

Whether it was seeing President Kennedy’s gravesite at Arlington, the Lincoln Memorial, or standing on the steps in the exact spot as Martin Luther King, there were many milestones by famous leaders to take in.

Milestones in your leadership come in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. Here are a few leadership themes I was reminded of on my trip.

The highest calling of leadership is in service to others

One cannot walk the grounds of Arlington without acknowledging with humility the service and sacrifice of the brave men and women buried there.

In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy challenged the American spirit with these immortal words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country…”. It’s in the spirit of those words we are reminded of the importance of servant leadership.

The greatest opportunity of leadership is to inspire others

When Martin Luther King Jr. took to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he prophetically spoke into our collective consciousness. His words elevated the dialogue, lifted spirits, challenged us to be better.

He had the courage to see things as they were and the foresight to see things as they could be. He dreamed of a day he could envision “when my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.

We need more leaders to step up and elevate and inspire all of us to reach our God-given potential.

The greatest responsibility of leadership is in the building of our character

The news headlines of today make it clear that we have work to do. Character-based leadership is needed now more than ever.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity.” said Abraham Lincoln, “but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. And this is the great leadership challenge of our generation. We must be leaders of character first and foremost.

Milestones in leadership are built in the intentional choices and disciplines on our leadership journey. Heed the words of the leaders who have gone before us, look to the future with hope.

©2017 Doug Dickerson

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